Road Cycling

A History of Women Cyclists Who’ve Blazed a Trail for the Sport

Women will ride in the Tour de France for the first time this year! Here are the historic female heroes who helped push the sport forward

3. Billie Fleming

Born in 1914, Billie Fleming died earlier this year shortly after reaching her 100th birthday. She still holds the record for most miles cycled in one year, after she completed a whole 29,603 of them in 1938.

On a mission to promote women’s health and fitness to her fellow Brits, Billie rode around the UK, fuelled only by her enthusiasm and chocolate (really – Cadbury’s sponsored her).

She planned to go on to cycle around the U.S but a little thing called the Second World War got in the way. Don’t worry, she went on to break three cycling records on a tricycle instead. Bonkers.

4. Beryl Burton

The greatest British female cyclist of all time, Beryl Burton’s list of achievements is staggering. Two years after her husband Charlie introduced her to cycling in 1955, she started to win.

She was world champion five times, and held the title of the Road Time Trials Council’s British Best All-Rounder for TWENTY FIVE consecutive years. TWENTY FIVE!

“Beryl held the title of British Best All-Rounder for 25 consecutive years!”

She also broke the women’s record for the 12 hour time trial at 277.25 miles, which remained higher than the men’s record for a full two years.

Because Beryl was clearly a mythical goddess on two wheels, she even set a record with her daughter for the women’s 10 mile tandem time trial.

How can something be so simultaneously awesome and heart-warming? We love you Beryl.

Photo: Graham Watson

5. Marianne Martin

Probably the least well known of all the cyclists on this list, American Marianne Martin is still an important woman in cycling.

La Course is undoubtedly a watershed moment for women and the Tour, but Marianne Martin actually wore the yellow jersey of the first ever Tour de France Féminin back in 1986.

Unfortunately the Féminin was plagued with lack of sponsorship and cancellations until it’s demise in 2009, but it provided a much-needed platform for women to get exposure.

So La Course isn’t a first. But don’t let that stop you being angry about the general under-representation of women – and the boobalicious models on the men’s podium, of course.


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