When we think of women’s lives in the UK in the 50s and 60s I guess we imagine homemakers, mums and daughters, dependant on husbands and fathers for financial support. Well let me introduce you to Beryl Burton.
Born in Leeds in 1937 Beryl did indeed grow up to be a wife and mum. She was also Women’s World Road Race Champion five times between 1959 and 1966. During her long cycling career Beryl Burton set around 50 national time trial records at various distances. Her 12- hour record stood for 50 years and was not broken until 2017!
At her peak Beryl was regularly surpassing records set by male cyclists and, unusually for the time, her husband, also a cyclist, took on a supporting role, driving her to and from events and cheering her on from the roadside.
Sadly, Beryl never competed in an Olympic event as women cyclists were not admitted to the games until 1984. Who knows how many medals she would have won for Team GB? I don’t think anyone could dispute that Beryl’s amazing cycling career and successes helped pave the way for future women’s champions such as Lizzie Deignan and Alice Barnes.
So, while roads are once again quiet; put your helmet on, get on your bike and get pedalling. Time yourself, build up your strength and stamina. Get fitter; get better! As Beryl famously said, “Anything lads can do..I can do!”