I’ve been wanting to create a fitting tribute to Beryl Burton for quite some time.
Being from Leeds, my grandad would often comment that none of the current batch of cyclists were a patch on Beryl.
Her achievements were astonishing and difficult to comprehend.
“Breaking the statistics down into more bitesize chunks, Burton was the national pursuit champion 13 times and won the road title on 12 occasions. Moving on to time trials, the numbers go up a whole other level. She was 18 times the national 100-mile champion, 23 times the national ‘50′ champion and 26 times the 25-mile champion. Burton was already in her 40s when the Road Time Trials Council introduced a national 10-mile title. Yet she also won that four times.
In addition to these titles, Burton was, for 25 successive years (between 1959 and 1983), the British Best All-Rounder. She set records dozens of times, reducing them over the course of her career by as much as 15 per cent. In 1963, she was the first woman to go under the hour for 25 miles, and subsequently bust the two and four-hour barriers for the ‘50′ and the ‘100′.”
We obviously discussed a potential jersey in the Milltag studio and drew together some ideas, but nothing we came up with got anywhere near close enough to do her justice. We put it away but I always hoped there would be another opportunity for us to do something in the future.
It was only when myself and Stef Wyman were planning the 2017 Matrix kit that the idea of the Beryl tribute returned to my thoughts.
Whilst it’s extremely difficult to pick a particular moment in Beryl’s career, there has always been one performance that stood out for me. Fifty years ago, in 1967 (the same year as she was crowned World Road Race Champion), at the National 12 Hour TT, Beryl beat everyone – women and men. She set a women’s world record which has not yet been beaten at 277.25 miles and as she passed the last racer in front of her – Mike McNamara – she casually offered him a Liquorice Allsort.
With this in mind we created a “B” graphic, made of a 6 and 7 for the year. It appears on the Matrix kit under the collar on the back to inspire the team but also future generations – whether girls or boys – to get out and ride.
The Matrix team launch in Manchester on 31st March will see us unveil the new kit, but also feature an exhibition of rare Beryl Burton photography taken over the course of her 25 year career at the top of the sport from the Cycling Weekly archive. We found it extremely difficult to choose which images to use so here are a selection that did not make the final cut. The descriptions below are as typed or hand written on the reverse of the photograph.
1. Britain’s Mrs Beryl Burton crosses the finish line to win the Women’s World Cycling Road Race from the Russian L. Zadrorozhnaya, in 1 hour 26 minutes 30 seconds.
2. Beryl Burton (left) changes her punctured tyre after the 22 mile time trail in Bedford in which she was teamed with her daughter Denise (right) Photo: Jeff Katz
3. BB takes a welcome cup Dec 1983 Photo: Bob Peel
4. Photo John Goodrich
5.”Three Full Time Jobs” A Champion’s Formula. Beryl Burton, the housewife in farming clothes, prepares a hurried dinner for her family “we eat lots of meat” she said. After dinner she does lightning housework, then perhaps rides from Leeds to York and back before calling it another day. Photo John Drysdale.
Special thanks to CW for permission to raid and reproduce their archive.