on saturday past, with items of commuter clothing and paraphernalia to review, i set off to take the long way round, but all the while heading towards that weekly cappuccino and a cheese and tomato toastie for lunch. the next village along the coast heading north is that of bridgend, consisting of a few houses, an hotel and a shop. perhaps that doesn't even qualify as a village; i believe it may qualify more as a hamlet. however, the three mile stretch of road leading round the top of the loch is somewhat exposed to the elements. if it rains, hails or blows, there is quite literally nowhere to hide until the safety of bridgend woods is reached.
on saturday, a large dollop of black clouds blowing in from the west looked threatening enough for me to proceed at greater than commuting speed to take shelter in the bus stop opposite the shop. true to form, more than just a smattering of heavy rain drenched everyhting within dripping range, so i remained where i was, until it looked as if the bulk of it had passed before continuing upon my merry way.
i had managed only a few hundred metres before a friend of mine pedalled up from behind to join me in the ten kilometres to debbie's. i had opted to miss out the extra curricular pedalling in favour of remaining dry and not hungry. en-route to our coffee salvation we discussed the fact that we hadn't bumped into each other in recent weeks; he works a shift pattern that rarely remains the same from week to week, thus he is often not available on a sunday morning to join the velo club peloton. depending on my own workload, there can be six days between the sunday ride and the succeeding one on the following saturday and both of us were bemoaning the fact that we rarely seem to manage enough kilometres to avoid a sunday's gained fitness disappearing into nothing, while we sit facing computer screens on a daily basis.
i think it likely this is a common complaint, but economic necessity rarely abates in favour of some pedalling on the sly. it seems this was a conversation or problem that never seriously concerned the great beryl burton.
introduced to cycling by her husband charlie whom she married in 1955, beryl took only a couple of years to win her first medal (silver) in the 100 mile individual time trial, and by the time 1960 had rolled around, she was competing internationally. in fact, by then she had won the world pursuit championship in 1959, had become national road champion the same year, following it with similar success in 1960. she took the 25 mile time-trial win in 1958, 59, and 60 (with many more to follow, the 1960 national pursuit championship as well as wins in the national 50 miles and 100 miles. she rather dramatically, won the british best all-rounder championship every year from 1959 to 1983, a record 25 times.
these are not victories you achieve by sitting at a desk between one week's sunday ride and the next. to achieve so much, beryl burton worked part-time in the rhubarb and fruit farms of west yorkshire, her life completely consumed by a love of cycling. shortly after her only daughter, denise, was born, charlie fitted a kiddie seat to the back of beryl's bike allowing her to continue joining the club rides from their home town of morley. it rather goes without saying that she is the most successful female cyclists ever, and this dvd tribute by david bromley and ray pascoe is truly without compare.
featuring narration by phil liggett and interviews with martin cowgill, denise burton, charlie burton along with both beryl's brother and sister, the 88 minutes of documentary is, no disrespect intended, a far more rivetting account of her career than her autobiography personal best. the medium is greatly enhanced by the archive footage produced by peter and tony jackson of the morley film unit, two men who were learning the process while making some superb films of many of the morley cc weekend rides and time-trial competitions. there is even some superb footage of beryl's participation in her first cyclocross event (in which she was unsurprisingly victorious) on a course that would have given sven nys heart failure.
these were the days before professionalism had inveigled a distinctly amateur sport, where the acceptance of payment of any kind, could bring the competitive amateur into conflict with cycling's authorities. thus all her competitive forays, accompanied by husband charlie had to be personally paid for. there was no lottery funding in the fifties and sixties. success of this calibre depended on beryl spending every spare minute out on the bike training, sometimes in the company of her employer at the fruit farm, but more often alone. it would be safe to assume that if we consider ourselves as cycling obsessed, beryl burton took it to a whole new level.
there are interviews and cameo appearances from lisa brambini, roger st pierre, mandy jones, and author peter whitfield, but i think it safe to say that the outstanding feature of this documentary is the archive footage. it is quite educational (for want of a better word) to see the bicycles ridden in the late fifties and early sixties. no deep flange carbon wheels, no tri-bars, no di2 and also remarkably little seatpost showing, a feature that seems to have headed in completely the opposite direction in contemporary times.
though the film footage is not of the hi-definition quality more readily expected nowadays, it is all the better for it, offering a level of atmosphere and character that often seems to have disappeared in the digital age. beryl burton comes across as an easily approachable star of british cycling, always eager and willing to converse with anyone who approached her after any of her successfully completed events. messrs bromley and pascoe are to be soundly congratulated in producing this superb tribute to a wonderful cyclist. if this is missing from under your christmas tree, i think it likely you have serious grounds for redress.
wednesday 21st november 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................