Who is the greatest female cyclist EVER?


Just to add more variety to the Cuba diaries I wanted to tell you about a fantastic play I went to see before Christmas in Birmingham.
Called simply ‘Beryl’, it tells the story of the greatest female cyclist who ever lived. Beryl Burton remains unknown outside her sport (why?) but she was an incredibly driven woman from Yorkshire who won nearly 100 NATIONAL titles, a host of WORLD titles and even a distance cycling record that incredibly still stands today!
In 1967, when she set this unbroken record,  she even overtook the man who set the men’s distance cycled in 12 hours, cycling a jaw-dropping 227.25 miles in 12 hours. Although the men’s record has since been bettered, there has never been a female cyclist who has beaten Beryl’s record. Since 1967!

As she passed her fellow male racer Mike McNamara  in the 12-hour time trial, she casually offered him a liquorice allsort

from Sporting Cyclist magazine 1967


Other interesting facts about Beryl:

  • when she was 11 years old she had chorea and rheumatic fever and had to stay in hospital for 9 months.
  • Beryl suffered with heart arrhythmia as a child and was told to never exercise.
  • she won Stage 19 of the Tour de France in 1968.
  • she died at the age of 58 of heart failure whilst cycling.
  • her autobiography ‘Personal Best’ was released in 1986. It was re-released after the 2008 Olympics off the back of a sudden huge amount of interest in UK cycling.

Unfortunately, it was the last night of the play’s tour BUT if it comes around again, I URGE you to go see it- you won’t be disappointed.
It makes you wonder if there are any other achievements on this scale that have passed unnoticed ….

Finally, I’d like to dedicate this particular blog to an amazing young woman, Holly Page, who is setting herself challenges to explore the world and learn from her experiences. One of the biggest things she shares on her site, https://chexle.wordpress.com/ is that travel is about the journey, more than the destination.

Take a look at Holly’s blog about her latest cycling journey from Vancouver in Canada all the way down the west coast of America to La Paz in the state of Baja California in northern Mexico. It’s changed my mind about cycling in Mexico! Anybody interested in joining me?!



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