London cycling films afternoon: Racing is Life to be premiered in Hammersmith

Film documents the life of Beryl Burton, one of the greatest British cyclists of all time

by Sarah Barth   March 10, 2013  

Racing Is Life - The Beryl Burton Story

Racing Is Life, the new film about Britain’s greatest ever female cyclist, the five times World Champion Beryl Burton, will have its premiere in London in April 2013.

It will be shown on the big screen at the Riverside Cinema, Hammersmith, London on Sunday afternoon April 28th, along with the film Maestro, about the great 50’s track rider, Reg Harris.

The last Hammersmith cycling film afternoon was a sellout, so those interested in going along should book soon via the website or calling 020 8237 1111.

We reviewed the film Racing is Life earlier this year. For those that have heard the name but know very little about Beryl Burton, Beryl was a no nonsense Yorkshire tom boy who won the RTTC Best All Rounder 25 years in a row from 1959 until 1983.

She was 7 times world champion in the 3,000 metre pursuit and on the road - all while being a mother and holding down jobs on fruit farms in West Yorkshire.

In 1967, she set a new 12-hour time trial record of 277.25 miles a distance that surpassed the men's record of the time by 0.73 miles a time not beaten by a man for two years. While setting the record she caught and passed Mike McNamara who was on his way to setting the men's record at 276.52 miles and winning that year's men's British Best All-Rounder.

Apparently Beryl handed him a liquorice allsort as she passed him - not as an insult but because she would always share the food she had. McNamara gratefully ate it.

Based entirely on extensive super 8 footage the film starts with film shot from a moving car of Beryl streaking along at speed. Straight away you can see why she won everything in sight for almost 30 years. The fluid power of her pedal action and her utterly flat-backed position on the bike reveal her as a natural.

Racing is Life is partly an hour and a half of nostalgia for the British amateur racing scene of the 1950s - 1980s. This is a world of duffle coats and thermos flasks, cherry cheeks and briar pipes, leafy lanes and plain trackie tops.

Beryl was 30 years ahead of her time. Her 100 miles record lasted 28 years until beaten in the 1990s by women using aerodynamic bikes. Her 12 hour record still stands today. She was World 3,000 metres pursuits champion 5 times, World road race champion twice and National RR Champion 12 times. There wasn't a women's world championship time trial event during Beryl's career and the women's road race wasn't part of the Olympics until 1984. If Beryl was a new rider today you get the feeling that Marianne Vos wouldn't have stood a chance on the Mall last summer.

With the first stage of the 2014 TDF finishing in Beryl's last home town of Harrogate this film couldn't have been released at a better time. It's a fine tribute to probably the best cyclist the UK has ever seen - man or woman.

3 user comments

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This would normally be a must for me, but seeing that Phil "lance never tested positive" Liggett is narrating I may have to pass as the very sound of his voice annoys the hell out of me.

posted by festival [101 posts]
10th March 2013 - 23:10

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I saw a 15 minute preview at Hammersmith at a showing of a Coppi documentary and I have to say that he really put me off. (He droned all the way through the Coppi docu as well)

posted by zanf [425 posts]
11th March 2013 - 0:00

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There's a lot of droning on concerning Liggert at the moment. Big Grin

Silly me. You're probably right....

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posted by MercuryOne [1031 posts]
11th March 2013 - 1:13

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