Blink and you’ll miss it: A tribute to Beryl Burton at the National Cycling Centre

beryl burton cabIt’s hard to miss the bright white UFO-shaped structure that is the  National Cycling Centre when heading east out of Manchester’s city centre.

Yet in-between hosting several world class sporting events and training someone in charge seems to have forgotten to add the sign posts to the memorial display of one of the Uk’s foremost cyclists inside.

Although sadly not formally open for free to the public if you do manage to find a legitimate way in head to the right hand curve of the standing area.

There you will find a tribute to Beryl Burton, a 90 times domestic racing champion and holder of seven world titles.beryl2

Comprising of photographs, memorabilia and her enviable collection of medals it is a heartfelt commemoration of one of the most talented British sportswomen of all time.

A life long Morley resident born in 1937 Beryl was 18 when her new husband Charlie introduced her to the sport that was to dominate the rest of her life.

Quickly taking to the saddle she joined Morley Cycling Club where she began to dedicate many hours to travelling great stretches of roads around the county.

IMAG1130Receiving continued support from Charlie, who remained throughout her career her loyal coach and mechanic, it was only two years before she earned her national accolade, a silver in the 100-mile individual time trial championship.

And less than three years later she was crowned gold medallist at the Women’s Road World Championships in Leipzig, an honour she repeated in 1967 alongside taking second place in 1961.

From there her competitive edge propelled her from one competition to the next and in the space of 14 years she won a host of enviable titles.

This included five times individual pursuit world champion, three times silver and three times bronze and winner of the  UK cycling’s top accolade, the Bidlake Memorial Prize, a record three times, in 1959, 1960 and 1967.beryl8

All this was compounded by her setting of roughly 50 national records for varying distances, some of which remained for 20 years.

Even more impressively, her 1967 12 hour time trial record of 277.25 miles was not succeeded by a man until 1969 and has yet to be officially recorded as beryl10being beaten by another woman 43 years on, with Julia Shaw being the only rumoured usurper.

Throughout this time she contined to work to support her passion, taking a variety of jobs that included rhubarb worker on fellow cyclist Nim Carline’s farm and brought up her daughter Denise.

It then comes as no surprise that Beryl was awarded an MBE in 1964 and OBE in 1968 for her cycling efforts.beryl9

She was so committed and talented in her field that when she won her last medal at 49 she had competed successfully against some women that probably half her age.

Despite taking a step back to less enduring races she continued to enter races and use her bike as main method of transport right up until the very point she died, when she was out on a social ride delivering invites to her 59th birthday party.

beryl3It was a tragic but somehow illustrative end to the life of an incredible and proud female athlete who refused to stop pushing herself to the limit.

The National Cycling Centre does offer tours of the whole stadium that take in the memorial but cost a minimum of £40.

However, it’s always worth an ask if you can go show your respect for one of Britain’s sporting heroes for free. Go to http://www.nationalcyclingcentre.com for more information.

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