Beryl: In Search of Britain's Greatest Athlete, Beryl Burton (Paperback)
  • Beryl: In Search of Britain's Greatest Athlete, Beryl Burton (Paperback)

Beryl: In Search of Britain's Greatest Athlete, Beryl Burton (Paperback)

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Paperback 352 Pages
Published: 20/04/2023
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Waterstones Says

Britain's greatest ever cyclist is given the literary treatment she so richly deserves in Wilson's rigorously researched biography of the complex and enigmatic Beryl Burton.

Winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2022

The Times Sport 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.

Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
ISBN: 9781788162937
Number of pages: 352
Weight: 300 g
Dimensions: 198 x 128 x 26 mm
Edition: Main


Obsessed by Beryl. This is an incredible book - Gabby Logan

A story with the ingredients that Hollywood would recognise ... The least publicised, least rewarded great woman athlete ever to be disregarded by her own country - The Times

Quite simply a Tour de Force - Alyson Rudd, William Hill Sports Book of the Year Chair of Judges

The subtitle may not even be hyperbolic. Beryl Burton, an almost forgotten amateur cyclist who worked on a rhubarb farm in Yorkshire, was not simply the undisputed ruler of British women's cycling for 25 years, but also broke the men's record in a 12-hour time trial. Jeremy Wilson retrieves an astonishing life. - Simon Kuper, Financial Times

An incredible story about one of the greatest cyclists of all time - Irish Times

Absolutely extraordinary. I feel like we ought to have a statue to her - Mishal Husain, BBC Radio 4

To my mortification, I had not heard of Beryl Burton, so pretty much all the material in this was new to me. The subtitle - In Search of Britain's Greatest Athlete - is not hyperbolic: Burton dominated cycling, that most unforgiving of sports, in the 1960s, winning world championships on the road and the track, in 1967 setting a record for the 12-hour time trial (277.25 miles!) not beaten by a man for another two years. A phenomenon. - Robert Crampton, The Times Best Sports Book of the Year 2022

Britain's greatest ever cyclist is given the literary treatment she so richly deserves in Wilson's rigorously researched biography of the complex and enigmatic Beryl Burton. - Waterstones Best Books of 2022

I simply cannot exaggerate how bloody great this book is and how inspiring Beryl's story is - Emma Cole, Cyclist

My 97-year-old mother-in-law has no interest in cycling but picked it up from our kitchen table, took it home, and loved it! - Alastair Campbell

The most comprehensive chronicle of its kind - Yorkshire Post

Remarkable - Ilkley Gazette

One of the greatest figures in the history of British sport. - Matthew Syed

The DiMaggio, the Muhammad Ali ... of British cycling. - Gordon Burn

A marvellous book. Gives a real insight into Beryl and the times. For the first time I feel like I really know her and questions have been answered. So wonderfully researched, so many things I didn't know! It really puts her on the roster of legends. - Maxine Peake

Ludicrously ahead of her time. Ruthless, relentless, brilliant, belligerent - and quite possibly the greatest Olympian Britain never had. What a story. - Alistair Brownlee, author of Relentless: Secrets of the Sporting Elite and double Olympic champion

The scale of unsung achievement is awe-inspiring - Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, 11 times Paralympic champion

Jeremy Wilson finds the human heart of a story that gets more extraordinary as a unique athlete recedes into history. Very highly recommended. - Richard Williams

Jeremy Wilson brings alive this extraordinary woman's achievements (and problems, too - she wasn't always the best mother) in this fabulous biography. - Sports Books of the Year, Daily Mail

I had never realised the longevity and scale of achievement. I'm in awe. - Dame Katherine Grainger

What a story Wilson has uncovered. No one in the history of sport can have worked with quite the self-sacrificing single-mindedness ... a woman of thermonuclear levels of competitiveness - Jim White, The Oldie

This is not a hagiography, and all the better for it. Wilson brings her personality to life, faults and all. Meticulously researched. Compelling - Isabel Best, author of Queens of Pain

A beacon is a guiding light, or a warning signal... a fire in a high place. Beryl Burton was, and is, all of those things. Her flame burns all the brighter thanks to Jeremy's fine book. - Carlton Kirby

A beautiful book that tells us not just what she did, but who she truly was. - Michael Hutchinson, author of Faster

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:

Hands up if, like me, you had never heard of Beryl Burton. Shame on us. The truth is she was a cycling phenomenon [and] ferociously competitive Yorkshire girl, who swept the board in all the various British national championships. Jeremy Wilson brings alive this extraordinary woman's achievements (and problems, too - she wasn't always the best mother) in this fabulous biography. - Roger Alton, Daily Mail

Subtle, full of insight, extensively researched and a joy to read - Paul Jones, author of End to End

Impressively thorough ... worth every page -

A superb book about someone who was great before her time - Pez Cycling News

A long overdue and remarkable biography of a remarkable cyclist - The New European, Charlie Connelly

The fascinating [and] extraordinary story of Yorkshire's very own ... it is an excellent book [and] well worth a read - Cycling Europe Podcast

Charts the incredible story of cyclist Beryl Burton, who set a world record in 1967 and was Britain's best all-rounder for 25 successive years. Given her myriad achievements across several decades, it is surprising that Burton is relatively unknown among the wider public; this book aims to address that. - Nathalie Issa, The Daily Telegraph

Beryl was a woman ahead of her time, she was an incredible athlete with an inspirational mindset, and we are only left to imagine what she would have achieved given the same opportunities as the women's peloton now has. We are grateful to Beryl and the women like her who paved the way for our generation to enjoy the professionalism and recognition that she so richly deserved - Lizzie Deignan MBE, Professional Cyclist

Beryl is a worthy winner of the award, because it charts the most incredible of sporting endeavours and gradually reveals Burton to be both admirable and troubling ... it is not a book just for cycling enthusiasts. Burton would have stormed the Olympics had it allowed female cyclists to compete, and her story demanded the attention to detail that Wilson affords it. - Alyson Rudd, chairwoman of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award, The Times Best Sports Book of The Year

Jeremy Wilson provides a convincing case in his tribute to this elusive and remarkable figure - Best Sport Books of the Year, The 42

An incredible story about one of the nation's greatest-ever athletes that you probably haven't heard of - until now. - The Sport Review

A fascinating book ... brilliant story [and] definitely well worth checking out. There's been many plaudits for Jeremy's amazing book, but a common thread that runs through them is how thoroughly well researched it is. - Anthony Walsh and James Spender, Cyclist Magazine Podcast

The Telegraph chief sports writer Jeremy Wilson set out to learn more about Beryl Burton and at the end of a long investigative odyssey ended up convinced that Burton was the greatest athlete this country has ever produced. Who are we to argue? - Cycling Weekly Gift Guide

I loved it, as everyone else has [and] recommend people get it, read it cover to cover and be amazed by the life of Beryl Burton. - Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

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“A remarkable woman, a truly inspirational and brilliant read.”

It’s probably true to say that if Beryl Burton had lived some 30 or 40 years later she would have been recognized as the greatest living woman cyclist. As we look back at her achievements, winning more than 90... More

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