With a little help from an electric bike

The first Briton to win a stage of the Tour de France is about to try and break his own record for the ascent of Yorkshire’s iconic Holme Moss climb - at the age of 83. But the veteran cyclist is unashamed to admit that he’ll have a little help from an electric motor.

The climb to 524 metres will feature in the second stage of the 2014 Tour de France and Brian believes his record of 6 minutes and 10 seconds still stands.

After the Tour’s visit to Yorkshire was announced, Brian said he was determined to carry on riding until the race visited his home county.

In December 2012 he told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “We do not know where it is going yet but I am hoping it will go through Holme Moss. I call it my hill because we used to race up it.

“You can see all the riders coming over it for two miles. It is a beautiful spot.

“I have got a target now until 2014 to keep on riding.

“If it goes over Holme Moss, I will make sure that I am at the bottom of it.”

Now he thinks that, thanks to the electric bike, he will be able to keep riding for even longer.

“The electric bike is fantastic,” he told the Yorkshire Post. “When you are my age cycling up hills can be painful. I like the fact that I can measure the level of assistance I need and combine pedalling with electric power.

“Somebody said why don’t you try an electric bike? and normal bikies would say ‘Ooh, you know...’, but it’s brought the fun back into my life.

“When you are riding with guys 10 years younger, it’s brought me level again. Another five years like this and I’ll be very happy.”

He plans to tackle holme Moss sometime next week, depending on the conditions.

“It’s just a fun thing really,” he said. “I thought right, that’s a good idea.

“You need a nice day up because it can be grim.

“I haven’t set a date yet when I’ll tackle Holme Moss but when I do my pals in the cycling club will get a bit of a shock when I race past them.”

First British Tour finisher

Brian Robinson started racing in 1948 and in 1952 rode the Route de France, the amateur Tour, as part of a joint National Cycling Union/army team. In 1955 he became one of the first two Britons to finish the Tour de France, ending the race in 29th place with Tony Hoar last.

He never thought he’d see the Tour de France in his native Yorkshire.

“I’m over the moon,” he said.

“When I started you would never have thought that the Tour de France would be coming. It’s a dream come true.

“I know it’s been to the South of England before but for it to come to Yorkshire will be great - thanks to Welcome to Yorkshire because they have really worked at that.”

And while the life of a professional cyclist has changed immeasurably since the 50s, and bike technology has raced along, he says one fundamental remains.

He said: “In my day it was a bit rough and ready. You just used to get on your bike and off you go.

“There was no fancy gear, no professional help from physios or nutritionists, but that’s not to say it wasn’t good.

“Now they have got lots of facilities but at the end of the day it’s the guy on the bike that has to perform, and that hasn’t changed.”

Brian’s electric bike is supplied by e-bikehire.com of Otley. Company owner Ian Morton said that Brian was a legend of British cycling. “We thought it would be great to offer him an electric bike to test the challenges of the Grand Depart route. The added power should make climbing Holme Moss a breeze.”

Brian Robinson Challenge

Brian Robinson is also recognised as a cycling legend by the Brian Robinson Challenge Ride, a 70-mile sportive near Huddersfield that takes in Holme Moss and Woodhead Pass on April 27.

The 2014 Brian Robinson Challenge will be the event’s eighth edition. It’s organised by local Mayor, Martyn Bolt, who is a keen cyclist himself.

Martyn said: “Whilst the distance may not be as great as some of the mid summer sportives, the variables of weather in the Pennines can work to make this a challenge in every sense of the word. Brian has been with us on each occasion with a cheery word and handing out bananas and flap jack where needed.”

Martyn designed the initial route for the Tour stage that passes through the area and says that it’s the lesser known climbs on the Brian Robinson Challenge that catch people out, such as Wessenden Head.

See the Brian Robinson Challenge entry page for more details.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.