Win a signed copy of The Greatest: The Times and Life of Beryl Burton

Beryl Burton Mural
Detail of a mural of Beryl Burton in gardens dedicated to the champion cyclist in her home town of Morley
Your chance to win a signed copy of William Fotheringham’s book The Greatest: The Times and Life of Beryl Burton in our exclusive interview with the author himself

What motivated you to write your book?

Part of it was that there was no proper biography about Burton, clearly one of the greats of bike racing, and I wanted to fill that space. Maxine Peake’s play had shown it was a story that drew people, so that gave me some confidence.

There was some unfinished business too. In 2016 I co-authored Lizzie Deignan’s book, which we both specifically intended to be an inspirational work that would draw women into the sport. Steadfast is a good book, but we got diverted by other issues, so I wanted to build on what we were trying to do there.

Role models and their stories are important, and there aren’t enough of them for women in cycling because the history of women’s bike racing has barely been documented

William Fotheringham, author, The Greatest: The Times and Life of Beryl Burton

Role models and their stories are important, and there aren’t enough of them for women in cycling because the history of women’s bike racing has barely been documented – I’d point to Isobel Best’s Queens of Pain as a rare exception. This was a very small first step to redressing that.

Finally, a friend of mine offered the chance to help me publish it myself, and that was a further reason, as when I proposed it to a publisher the response was not what I wanted. I had a point to prove there: to write it and make it a success.

What was the most surprising discovery for you when researching Beryl’s life?

The pervasiveness and pettiness of the sexism within cycling really hit me when I spoke to women who raced in Burton’s era.

Working on Lizzie Deignan’s book I got a good insight into how it feels now, but there’s a whole long sorry back story to where we are now that emerged as I wrote the book. It’s one thing to know the historical facts – the fight to get in the Olympic Games and so on – but the human stories are what hit home.

It’s quite something to talk to someone like Eileen Sheridan, who was an amazing athlete, and hear her saying that the one thing she truly missed was a rainbow jersey, because there were no world championships for women.

So too the grudging way in which the UCI began running the Worlds in 1958, the fact that countries would refuse to host women and no one would bang their fist and make them do it. And much more.

Beryl Burton Smiling (C) Alamy

In your opinion, what made Beryl so unbeatable/such a force?

There were several sides to this. She was obsessive about winning; she was massively driven and competitive. She loved the adulation and the recognition, she truly wanted to make her mark.

A psychiatrist might say she spent her life trying to compensate for two early major life events: not passing the eleven-plus and falling seriously ill immediately afterwards.

Her obsession with success wasn’t entirely healthy for her physically or mentally, so there’s an important lesson to be drawn there.

How do you hope people will feel after reading this book?

I hope it will make them want to go and ride their bikes and hopefully compete in some area to see just how good they can be.

Clearly, there are very specific ways in which Burton’s story could be inspirational for women, but I think anyone who rides a bike can take important things from it – her love of being outdoors, of challenging herself physically, of valuing herself and of standing up for herself, of not taking no for an answer.

The only proviso I would attach is that you don't have to be as driven or as successful to get a hell of a lot out of your cycling.

Win a signed copy

You could win a signed copy of The Greatest – The Times and Life of Beryl Burton by telling us who the most inspirational female cyclist is to you. This could be a star, a professional, a coach, a club leader or a wonderful friend, it’s how they inspire you that counts.

Send us your entries via Facebook or email

The winner will be contacted 31 January 2021. Please note this competition is now closed.

Special discount

If you don’t win this time, there is a special 15% discount for those who buy via Cycling UK. Simply enter the code Beryl15 at the checkout.

Terms and conditions

  1. The promoter is: Cycling UK (company no. 25185) whose registered office is at Parklands, Railton Road, Guildford, Surrey GU2 9JX.
  2. The competition is open to residents of the United Kingdom aged 18 years or over except employees of Cycling UK and their close relatives and anyone otherwise connected with the organisation or judging of the competition.
  3. There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this competition.
  4. By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.
  5. Details of how to enter the competition will be shared via email and Facebook. The promoter may also share via Twitter and Instagram.
  6. Closing date for entry will be 31 January 2021. After this date no further entries to the competition will be permitted.
  7. No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for whatever reason.
  8. The rules of the competition and how to enter are as follows:
  9. Send the promoter an email or Facebook comment explaining which female cyclists inspires you the most, and why.
  10. The promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice in the event of a catastrophe, war, civil or military disturbance, act of God or any actual or anticipated breach of any applicable law or regulation or any other event outside of the promoter’s control. Any changes to the competition will be notified to entrants as soon as possible by the promoter.
  11. The promoter is not responsible for inaccurate prize details supplied to any entrant by any third party connected with this competition.
  12. The prize will be revealed via social media.
  13. The winner contacted via email or Facebook no later than 31 January 2021.
  14. No cash or other alternatives will be offered. The prizes are not transferable. Prizes are subject to availability and we reserve the right to substitute any prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice.
  15. If the winners cannot be contacted or do not claim the prize within 14 days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner.
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  18. By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.
  19. The competition and these terms and conditions will be governed by English law and any disputes will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England.
  20. The winner agrees to the use of his/her name and image in any publicity material, as well as their entry. Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current UK data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party without the entrant’s prior consent.
  21. The winner’s name will be available 28 days after closing date by writing to the following address: Parklands, Railton Road, Guildford, Surrey GU2 9JX.
  22. Entry into the competition will be deemed as acceptance of these terms and conditions.
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