Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

Brian Robinson, who has died aged 91, was the primary Briton not solely to finish the Tour de France however then to go on to win a Tour stage.

His landmark Tour completion got here in 1955, when he battled on to the end in twenty ninth place general. Three years later, after various trials and tribulations on and off the highway, he achieved a Tour stage victory over a bit from St Brieuc to Brest, adopted by one other in 1959, from Annecy to Chalon-sur-Saône.

In doing so he paved the way in which for different Britons to make their mark on the game in mainland Europe in subsequent a long time.

Born in Mirfield, west Yorkshire, Brian was the son of Emily (nee Backhouse), an ammunitions employee through the second world struggle, and Henry Robinson, a joiner and builder. It was a biking household, and Henry inspired the aggressive road-racing instincts of Brian and his brother, Desmond, each members of the Huddersfield Street Membership.

However Henry additionally insisted that Brian needs to be apprenticed as a joiner for six years. As well as, he needed to undertake nationwide service, and it was not till 1953 that he totally dedicated himself to skilled biking.

With Desmond, Brian had represented Nice Britain as an novice within the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, however insularity and confused attitudes had stored Britain out {of professional} biking in mainland Europe. Nevertheless, Brian took the view of the rebellious British League of Racing Cyclists, whose members had wider horizons. Having come fourth within the Tour of Britain in 1952 and second in 1954, he set his sights on the Tour de France.

Hercules, the affluent British cycle producer, had by this time begun to assemble a workforce that might race overseas, and Robinson joined it. Within the winter of 1954-55 he and his team-mates went to a coaching camp at Les Issambres within the south of France. The village was favoured by French biking professionals, who the opposite British cyclists most popular to keep away from. However Robinson felt he may make strides by attending to know his rivals; so he started to show himself French, and fraternised with them.

Within the 1955 Tour de France, the ten British workforce members have been outclassed. None of them had recognized such fierce competitors, they usually had no concept of the difficulties of the Alps and Pyrenees.

Solely two even reached the ultimate stage in Paris – Robinson and Hampshire-born Tony Hoar. Robinson had come close to to abandoning the race at varied factors, however had been helped for days by Hoar’s good humour.

They each accomplished the occasion, with Hoar because the lanterne rouge within the 69th and last place. The 2 got an particularly heat welcome once they rode into the Parc des Princes in Paris. Eighteen years after Charles Holland and Invoice Burl had turn into the primary Britons to enter the race, it was a particular second within the entente cordiale and marked the start of a brand new period in British biking.

Regardless of that achievement, the Hercules workforce swiftly disbanded amid recriminations. Robinson spent the winter of 1955-56 again in Mirfield, working in his father’s enterprise and hoping for future campaigns in Europe.

In 1955 he married a fellow membership bicycle owner, Shirley Fearnley, who got here to know – dwelling largely in a caravan – the hardships of a racer’s life.

For the subsequent two years Robinson travelled round making an attempt to earn cash in minor French races, typically pressured to sleep in fields and barns when funds have been low.

Within the spring of 1956 he rode for a minor workforce within the Vuelta a España, a chaotic tour in Spain policed by Franco’s Guardia Civil. His valour in that competitors introduced him a experience for the worldwide workforce within the 1956 Tour de France, by which he completed 14th, and the next 12 months he shone in Italy’s Milan-San Remo occasion, ending third when he may need gained on a luckier day.

In 1957 and 1958 he needed to abandon the Tour de France, a sufferer of crashes and exhaustion on each events. Nonetheless, earlier than he withdrew in 1958 got here his stage victory within the 170km seventh part throughout Brittany, by which he initially completed second however was positioned first when the Italian rider Arigo Padovan, who had crossed the road within the lead, was penalised for having earlier pressured Robinson into the obstacles.

If this was one thing of a hole victory, in 1959 Robinson proved it was no fluke when he gained the 202km twentieth stage that completed at Chalon-sur-Saône. Sensing at daybreak that the day may belong to him, he fitted his lightest wheels and tyres and engineered a decisive solo breakaway, ending 20 minutes forward of the peloton.

It was a experience of commanding power somewhat than brilliance, and Robinson stated that he had ready for it, years earlier than, in British time-trialling.

In 1961 he rode to his most prestigious victory, within the seven-day Critérium de Dauphiné Libéré within the south-east of France.

By now virtually eight years into an exhausting skilled profession, Robinson was starting to really feel the strains of his gruelling schedule, and his performances progressively started to say no. However as a longtime rider who was well-known in France and revered by all the highest professionals of the time, he had constructed up nice data of a sport that was each heroic and corrupt.

An trustworthy competitor and a principled man, he was effectively positioned to information the inexperienced British riders who, from the late Nineteen Fifties, tried to observe in his wake. Essentially the most distinguished of his proteges was Tom Simpson, who grew to become considered one of Britain’s most profitable cyclists.

Nevertheless, on the age of 33 and having made little cash from his sport, Robinson determined to return to Mirfield and his first vocation as a joiner. In a while he stayed in contact with different former professionals on annual snowboarding reunions in Switzerland, and it was additionally his pleasure, till he was effectively into his 80s, to experience with Huddersfield clubmates within the hilly Yorkshire roads he had recognized since he was a boy.

Robinson was particularly celebrated when the Tour de France visited Yorkshire in 2014, and obtained many tributes from younger British riders resembling Mark Cavendish and Sir Bradley Wiggins.

Brian and Shirley had three youngsters, Michelle, Martin and Louise. They divorced in 1974; the next 12 months Brian married Audrey Oldroyd, and gained three stepchildren, Elizabeth, Mark and Amanda.

Audrey, his youngsters and stepchildren survive him, as do his grandchildren, Rebecca and Jake, who’ve cycled in occasions all around the world, and 5 step-grandchildren. Desmond died in 2015.

Brian Robinson, bicycle owner, born 3 November 1930; died 25 October 2022

By Admin

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