It is difficult to find mention of British Cyclist Beryl Burton scrolling through the pages of cycling history. Ask anyone for the greatest female cyclist of all time and naturally the response would be of a certain Dutch World Champion. Long before the Manx Missile launched to his first sprint victory, and before Wiggo navigated to Paris in yellow, a young British woman with no money or official training, became the first to smash many world records over a remarkable 25-year career.
Born in 1937, a five-time pursuit, two-time Road World Champion, winner of an astonishing 96 national titles, champion of both track and road, and world record holder to this day, Burton simply loved cycling.
“For me, growing up with her, she was just my mum so nothing really stood out, because I knew she was a cyclist,” Denise Burton-Cole remembers, daughter of the late Burton, who herself is also a past national and world champion medallist. “She loved cycling. She loved going out on her bike through the Dales. She loved racing; she loved beating people.”
Growing up in a working class family in West Yorkshire, Burton was often sick as a child, spending months in a hospital at one point. She began cycling in her teens not long after meeting her future husband who introduced her to the sport. On the eve of her 59th birthday, Beryl Burton passed away from heart failure while riding her bicycle.
“Look at her record for the 12-hour time trials, that still stands and I mean people still do those races,” Emily Pooley adds, celebrated British professional cyclist. “I think it’s really important to tell Beryl Burton’s story because she was an incredible British athlete.”
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