International Women's Day: Top five influential women in cycling

To coincide with International Women's Day, Cyclingnews continues its series on women in cycling, looking at five of the most influential women in cycling over the years.

Beryl Burton (UK)

Her name may be unknown to many fans today, but Burton, who rode from the 1950s to the 1980s, is considered to be one of Britain's greatest athletes ever. Riding always as an amateur, and often working full-time jobs in addition, she won more than 90 national and seven world titles on both the road and the track. The time trial was her speciality, and she won the Road Time Trials Council's British Best All-Rounder Competition for a stunning 25 consecutive years, from 1959 to 1983. Burton won a total of 72 various national time trial titles, including 28 at the 100 miles distance. She won her last two time trial titles (25 and 50 miles) in 1986, at the age of 49.

She also shone on the roads, winning the world championship title in 1960 and 1967. A true all-rounder, Burton was also dominant on the track, winning medals in the world individual pursuit for nearly 30 years, including five golds.

In 1967, she set the 12-hour time trial record of 277.25 miles. This record was even better than the men's record, and a man did not better it until two years later. Her daughter Denise also became a cyclist, and mother and daughter were both selected for the 1972 world championships. She died of heart failure while on her bike, shortly before her 59th birthday.

Juli Furtado (USA)

Juli Furtado is one of the most accomplished women in cycling. After making the switch from competitive skiing, Furtado took up cycling. Although she won the 1989 US Road National Championships, she is best known for her mountain biking accomplishments.

She won the first UCI Mountain Bike World Championship cross country race in 1990 in Durango. She went on to dominate the US NORBA national series scene and the UCI World Cup (three series wins) and again won the world championships 1996. She also participated in the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996.

Though many think of her as a cross country star, she also won the downhill world championship in 1992.

Furtado, now 43, is a member of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. She has five NORBA and two World Cup titles.

She had to take an earlier than expected exit from elite level sports at age 29 in 1997. After being diagnosed with lupus in the early 90s, she eventually found she was unable to continue racing at the highest level though she still remains active and involved with the sport.

Jeannie Longo (France)

Jeannie Longo has the honour of being a legend in her own time. At the age of 52, she is still racing and winning, and is considered to be one of the best female cyclists of all time.

She is in fact reigning French time trial champion – a title she has held 9 times.

But that pales against her record in the French national road race championship, an event which she won 15 times. She held both national titles in six years.

Add to that five World road titles and four World time trial titles, as well as the 1996 Olympic road title.

All in all she can boast of over 1000 career victories.

Longo is another who doesn't limit herself to the road. She can boast of World track titles, and won a silver in the 1993 World mountain bike championship. The Frenchwoman has also set two hour records.

She is beginning to see, however, that the end is in sight.  "I can see other horizons," she said. "I can now accept things that seemed inconceivable to me, like for example skipping one day of training."

Robin Morton (USA)

Robin Morton has influenced the sport of cycling from behind the scenes, and not women's cycling, but men's. Now in her early 50s, in the 1980s the American was the first woman to own and manage a men's professional team.

Morton took that team to the Giro d'Italia in 1984, the first American team to enter that race. "Women had never been allowed in the caravan," Morton told Cyclingnews.  "I was under a microscope the entire time we were there."

Still, she made one important friend there, Angelo Zomegnan, then a cyclist and now head of the Giro. That contact has helped her in her current position, where she is trying to attract the start of the 2010 Giro to Washington, DC.

Morton is now with g4 Productions, an all-women event planning and production company based in Pennsylvania, which is responsible for, not surprisingly, any number of bike races in the US.

G4 is also the “Facilitator” behind the move to hold the first two 2012 Giro stages in Washington, DC. While the organisation committee is in the hands of the DC government and local race organisers, Morton's group handles the logistics – arranging for transportation, hotels, and so on.

The first start of a Grand Tour outside of Europe would be another coup for this female cycling entrepreneur.

Marianne Vos (Netherlands)

Marianne Vos looks to become the next Beryl Burton – the dominant force in women's cycling. Although she is still only 23, she has been putting her mark on the sport for six years already. The young Dutchwoman can look to a total of six world championships on the road, track and the cyclo-cross course. And those are only the elite titles.

Vos won her first national titles as a junior in 2002, taking the mountain bike, road and time trial wins. In 2004, she added the Junior women's World road title.

She made her elite debut in 2006, with overwhelming success in all fields, winning the World 'cross title, the World road title, and the European road championship. Vos also had 12 road wins that season, including the overall title in the Tour Feminin en Limousin.

2007 was an “off-year”, as she won no world or national titles of any sort, but she again had 12 wins on her way to taking the UCI Women's Road World Cup as well as finishing second in the Worlds road race.

She finally won her track titles in 2008, taking gold in both the Worlds and Olympics in the points race, and has won the 'cross World title for the last three years in a row.

The young Dutchwoman may at some point have to pick one discipline to concentrate on in the future, but at the moment the world is open to her.


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