Beryl Burton – Britain’s first worlds double winner

One of the great joys I have in copywriting assignments is when I'm asked to contribute copy to be printed on a fabric label that will adorn a very special cycling jersey. Santini makes jerseys that celebrate famous world championship wins (and special world championship winners). The labels come with a demanding word limit (350 words) and challenge me to write the story of an event famous to people who know the history of the sport (or the people involved). I *must* get them right. That's a challenge I enjoy. Being proud of the final copy is a great reward. What follows is the most recent example. 

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Beryl Burton - Britain’s first worlds double winner

When Beryl Burton, OBE, first took up cycling, riding with her husband Charlie and the Morley Cycling Club in Yorkshire, she had to be helped along. By her second year, she was a contributing member on group rides. In her third year, she started racing and went on to dominate the UK time-trial scene for most of the rest of her amazing, but sadly short, lifetime.

Burton earned the respect of global cycling fans and journalists with her world championships win in Leipzig in 1960. Against aggressive Soviet competition, racing behind the intimidating Iron Curtain, Burton led the pack for the first half of the race. She broke away with Elsy Jacobs of Luxembourg. Jacobs couldn’t hold the Briton’s pace, so Burton spent the final 35 kilometers off the front. She crossed the finish line with a three-minute margin over a chasing pack of thirteen riders.

The accomplishment is especially remarkable because Burton won the individual track pursuit world championships earlier that week, delivering the most-elusive prize in cycling; a same-year track/road worlds double championship.

Although she chose to remain an amateur, Burton is one of the most decorated cyclists in history. Domestically, she was virtually unbeatable. Burton won the Road Time Trials Council’s British Best All-Rounder Competition for 25 consecutive years (1959 to 1983). She earned 72 national individual time trial titles at multiple distances and set records that stood for decades. She also won 24 national titles in road and track racing. Internationally, she won five pursuit world championships on the track (1959, 1960, 1962, 1963 and 1966) and road worlds a second time in 1967.

Burton was recognized for her achievements in sport with appointment as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1964 and an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1968. She died in 1996.

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