Pioneers of Sport: Cyclist Brian Robinson

For those of you unfamiliar with cycling we need to induce you to Brian Robinson, a true pioneer of British sport. Robinson was the first rider from Britain to finish the Tour de France preceding the many victorious British riders who came after.

Brian Robinson was born in the post-war Yorkshire countryside in 1930. He started cycling with the Huddersfield Road Club at 13 and progressed to national competition from age 18. His first romp over the channel was at the Route de France, an amateur version of the Tour de France, which helped drive Robinson’s passion to compete on the World stage.

Brian Robinson Cyclist

The British Olympic committee came calling in 1952, inquiring about Robinson’s availability to ride for Great Britain at the Olympic Games in Helsinki. It was clear the Robinsons had cycling in their genes as his brother Desmond Robinson was also selected to represent Team GB in Finland. Although the brothers finished together back in 26th and 27th place they were picked up by Team Hercules shortly after, who planned to be the first British team to ride at the Tour de France.

In 1955 Robinson entered the Tour de France, 18 years after the last Britons Charles Holland and Bill Bur in 1937, and became the first British national to finish cycling’s most gruelling event. It’s a moment that should be celebrated as one of the pinnacle events in British sporting history.

The rise of Robinson to sporting icon occurred in 1958 when he won stage seven of the Tour de France, again a first for a rider from across the channel. A year later he collected his second stage win, riding at the front from Annecy to Chalon-sur-Saône. His success at the Tour after 1959 was a bit sporadic, however, the Yorkshireman did pick up his greatest career win in 1961, winning the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, one of the most prestigious cycle races outside the Grand Tours.⁠

Robinson retired at the age of 33 to return to the UK with his family, still riding his bike in relative anonymity until he became an ambassador for the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in Yorkshire in 2014.

Robinson’s success in France paved the way for British riders who came soon after such as Tom Simpson, Michael Wright and fellow Yorkshireman Barry Hoban. His career achievements were honoured in 2009 when he was inducted into the British Cycling Hall of Fame and the magazine Cycling placed Robinson the ninth best British rider of the 20th century.

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