The Times Sport Book of the Year 2022
The William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2022
Cyclist Beryl Burton – also known as BB – dominated her sport much as her male contemporary Eddy Merckx, but with a longevity that surpasses even sporting legends like Muhammad Ali, Serena Williams and Sir Steve Redgrave.
She was practically invincible in time trials, finishing as Best All-Rounder for 25 consecutive years and setting a world record in 1967 for the distance covered in 12 hours that beat the men. She won multiple world titles, even when the distances didn’t play to her strengths. But her achievements were limited by discrimination from the cycling authorities, and by her strictly amateur status against state-sponsored rivals from Eastern Bloc nations.
Yet she carried on winning, beating men and – infamously – competing against her own daughter, while working on a farm and running a household. Her motivation, sparked by appalling childhood illness, is as fascinating as her achievements are stunning.
With access to previously unseen correspondence and photographs, and through extensive interviews with family, friends, rivals and fellow giants from across sport, acclaimed journalist Jeremy Wilson peels back the layers to reveal one of the most complex, enigmatic and compelling characters in cycling history.
For the first time, he also provides the jaw-dropping answer to how fast she would still be on modern cycling technology. Long ignored by sporting history, Burton’s life story – recently told by Maxine Peake in a stage and radio play – is finally getting the recognition she deserves.
‘This is an inspirational story that just had to be told. There are few athletes, male or female, that had the success and longevity of Beryl Burton – but for too long her name and achievements have remained in the shadows. No longer! This fabulous book brings the person and her phenomenal, groundbreaking achievements to light – I couldn’t put it down.’ – Chrissie Wellington, four times world Ironman champion
‘I had never realised the longevity and scale of achievement. I’m in awe.’ – Dame Katherine Grainger
‘The least publicised, least rewarded great woman athlete ever to be disregarded by her own country.’ – The Times
‘Ludicrously ahead of her time. Ruthless, relentless, brilliant, belligerent – and quite possibly the greatest Olympian Britain never had. What a story.’ – Alistair Brownlee