The ŠKODA DSI Cycling Academy Blog
International Women’s Day Female cyclists from the past who inspire us
This International Women’s Day, each of the ŠKODA DSI Cycling Academy riders are highlighting some of their favourite female cyclists from years gone by and thinking about how they themselves can work to inspire the next generation.
Inspired by Beryl Burton
Image credit: https://cyclinguphill.com/classic-cycling-photos/
(In commemoration of Bernard Thompson’s lifetime’s work as a cycling photographer, these images are presented copyright free for the use of any individuals or institutions furthering the interests of cycling.)
From joining her first rides as a true beginner in 1953, to winning her first National medal in 1957, and becoming World Road Race Champion in 1960, Beryl Burton was destined for greatness. Her determination was key to her success, she was unashamedly competitive and for that she garnered a great deal of respect from fellow competitors and onlookers alike.
Family members of mine, despite not being keen cyclists themselves, still recall her time trial records with admiration. Her 12 hour record from 1967 of 277.25 miles – 0.73 miles further than the men’s record set on the same day was not superseded by a man until 1969, and stood as a women’s record for 50 years, beaten by Alice Lethbridge in 2017 with 285.65 miles. Her 10, 25, and 50-mile records of 21.25, 53.11, and 1.51.30 stood for 20 years respectively, with her 100-mile record of 3:55.05 standing for 28.
Internationally, she won two world road race championships and five world pursuit titles. In the UK, claiming 72 national time trial championships at distances from 10 to 100 miles, 12 national road race titles and a further dozen national pursuit titles, she was the best British all-rounder for 25 consecutive years.
Completing her entire career as an amateur cyclist, working on a rhubarb farm, Beryl Burton’s achievements are nothing short of incredible. Her strength opened the eyes of many to the possibilities within women’s cycling, and I believe her legacy shall continue to inspire for years to come.
Image credit: Nicolas Bouvy/EPA
Australia’s Tracey Gaudry rode in the pro peloton for several years in the nineties, was Australian national champion multiple times and went to both the 1996 and 2000 summer Olympics. In 1999 she was ranked third best in the world and since retiring as a professional cyclist she has become an advocate for women’s cycling, as well as an elected member of the board for the UCI.
Since retiring from the professional side of the sport, Gaudry now works with the UCI to help bridge the gender gap in cycling. Gaudry has heavily invested her time in the organisation of the Women’s World Tour, which was a very positive movement for cycling back in 2016 and has had a positive impact on the opportunities available for women in the sport. She continues to work with the UCI to work to improve the gender parity in cycling, and the good she has brought to the sport shall hopefully only continue to grow and move forward in the right direction. It is nice to know we have a former professional female cyclist working hard to remove the gender gap in cycling!
Jeannie Longo was the woman to beat, with her career taking off in the 1970’s and spanning through to the 2000’s she racked up an impressive Palmeres. However, Longo’s career didn’t start out on the bike. Her career actually started on the Ski’s and after a few trophies and a slice of winning, Longo turned her attention to cycling.
Longo won over 1000 races, five times World Champion in the road race and four times World Champion in the time trial, not to mention the long list of Olympic medals Longo has to her name. She was a real wave maker in putting women’s cycling on the map, especially in Europe where she raced hard and raced to win. What I love about Longo was the fact that she didn’t let her age get in her way, winning her 55th French National title at the age of 49 qualified her for the Beijing Olympics! Longo was always a name to watch and still has some of the best footage to view of early Women’s racing.
Inspired by Leontien Van Moorsel
Leontien Van Moorsel claimed her first national title in 1985 at only 15 years old. She remained a dominant rider until retiring in 2004, winning 4 Olympic gold medals, a 12 year long standing hour record, and numerous other world titles in time trials and road races. In the 2000 Olympics she took home gold in the road race, time trial, and individual pursuit, highlighting her strength in various disciplines.
Moorsel achieved this feat after battling anorexia during the 90’s and considers herself to have two careers: both before and after her illness. Her strength in overcoming her eating disorder to become a multiple Olympic champion is inspiring and highlights the challenges many athletes, and especially women, face in the sport. Since retirement she has been an advocate for eating disorder awareness in cycling, as well as for women’s racing as a whole.
Cycling provides us with the ability to find freedom, to seek change and progression, and to improve our quality of life. For years, women have strived for equality in the world of cycling, with some going head to head against men (and winning) and today we continue to ride for equality.
We hope you feel inspired to get out and ride on this International Women’s Day and beyond.
Who are the female cyclists that inspire you?