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BBC pays tribute to cycling great Beryl Burton in series on women sporting pioneers

Stage play based on Burton's life returns this summer...

Perhaps the greatest female cyclist the UK has ever produced, Beryl Burton, is the subject of a short biographical film by the BBC as part of a series paying tribute to pioneering women in sport in the run up to International Women's Day on March 8.

Burton dominated women's time trialling and track racing for decades, winning 96 national titles and the best British all-rounder for 25 consecutive years. She picked up seven world titles along the way too.

It's an excellent look at the life and sad, too-early death of a great rider, and well worth three minutes of your time.

Burton is most remembered for one ride in particular: beating all comers, male and female in the 1967 UK national 12-hour time trial. As well as breaking the women's record with a still-unbeaten 277.25 miles, she beat the men's record too.

Her daughter Denise Burton-Cole takes up the story: "The women had set off two minutes behind the men but my mum eventually caught up the men's champion, Mike McNamara.

"She was a little bit embarrassed she caught him because it was unheard of really.

"So, as she was going by, she had some sweeties in her pocket and offered Mike a Liquorice Allsort and he said: 'Yeah, ta love' and off she went."

Actor and playwright Maxine Peake was inspired to write a Radio 4 play about Burton that became a stage production performed during the Grand Depart cultural festival in Leeds.

That play, 'Beryl' will have another run at the West Yorkshire Playhouse this summer and will have a touring run.

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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