Boss It Like Beryl
This International Women's Day, we remember Beryl Burton. One of the greatest cyclists of all time, and until recently, forgotten by the history books. With a career that spanned three decades, Beryl surpassed both competitors and expectations, defying the odds to become the best in the game.
Beryl, the Yorkshire Lass
Beryl grew up in Morley, a small town outside of Leeds, Yorkshire. During her childhood she suffered from chronic illnesses which led to doctors encouraging her to avoid physical activity whilst growing up. At the age of 18 Beryl learned to ride a bike and within two years, without any formal coaching, she had secured her first medal in a national competition.
It was clear that Beryl had raw talent for the sport, however, the grit, sheer determination and competitive spirit that she possessed would take her cycling achievements to new heights and landmark victories.
How Beryl bossed it
Beryl held 96 British titles across time trials, track and road racing, with most standing for 10-20 years. She was a 5x Pursuit World Champion and 2x Road World Champion winner. Staggeringly, she still holds the women’s record for 12-hour time trials 50 years later despite the advances in bike technology and understanding of the sport.
Perhaps the most iconic moment in her career took place in September 1967 during a 12-hour time trial where she came head-to-head with the favourite of British cycling at the time, Mike McNamara. Beryl covered 235 miles on her bike, cycling from the break of dawn and through to the evening. As Beryl passed McNamara, she reached out her hand, offering him several Liquorish Allsort sweets. Overtaking the British male champ was particularly impressive considering the men had a two-minute head start in front of the female cyclists and she still had two hours on the clock when she overtook him, out-distancing him by half a mile. (Go on Lass!)
Despite setting many records, Beryl’s career spanned a time where women received very little media attention in society, sport and cycling, which greatly restricted the recognition she deserved. She was unable to take her career to the next level at the Olympic games as women were excluded from Olympic cycling until 1984. Beryl had past her cycling prime by the time she was eligible to compete.
Inspired by Beryl
Fully self-funded, Beryl evidenced immense commitment and talent that in today’s social climate would likely have taken her far further in her career. During international women’s day we want to take the time to reflect on her life and achievements which have been, for the most part, overshadowed.
Inspired by Beryl Burton’s life and achievements, we’ve designed a jersey for our wonderful FLAB Lasses to go out and Boss it Like Beryl this International Women’s Day. Anyone for a Liquorish Allsort...?
Shop our Bossing It Jersey here.
Find out more about our Beryl
Beryl’s book: Personal Best: The Autobiography of Beryl Burton
Film: Racing is Life: The Beryl Burton Story
BBC Podcast: Beryl Burton – The Yorkshire Dynamo