Brian Robinson was the first Briton ever to ride and finish the Tour de France. That was back in 1955 when, for just one year, Hercules sponsored a British team. At a time when professional cycle racing on the roads was virtually unknown in this country, Robinson went off to the Continent, without a contract, without the security of being part of an established team, to make a career for himself in what is now generally regarded as having been one of the toughest eras in a very tough sport.
He proved himself to be not only a fine rider, able to adapt to the continental style of racing and the taxing demands of a long season with clear-headed tenacity, but equally as important for his ambition, capable of adapting to French life and the culture of the peloton. Almost invariably in any race, he was the lone coureur anglais.
In 1958, with a growing list of successes in important one-day races and in the Tours of Spain and France he became the first Briton to win a stage of the great French race. He followed that up the following year by winning a second Tour stage, this time by the extraordinary margin of 20 minutes. He had already become the first from this side of the Channel to stand on the podium of one of cycling's great Classics - third in the Milan-San Remo. And in his final full year he took first place in the famous one-week race through the Alps, the Dauphine Libere. He was, without dispute, the great pioneer.
It is difficult to overstate the debt that is owed to him by the British riders who have followed in his tracks over the last half century. So it is only fitting that he should have played so important a part in bringing the Tour to Britain in 2014, and to his native Yorkshire. The book was first published as a hardback edition in 2010.
Graeme Fife is a full-time writer who has a number of cycling books to his credit. He has broadcast plays, stories and features for BBC radio networks. He has also written plays for the stage, as well as directing and performing. He is a Francophile and a cycling enthusiast with a depth of historical knowledge.
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