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Brian Robinson, one of the pioneers of British road cycling and the first British winner of a Tour de France stage, has died at the age of 91.
The Yorkshireman, who cycled his home roads on an e-bike well into his 80s, was one of the two first Britons to finish the Tour, together with Tony Hoar, in 1955. Robinson then claimed Britain’s first Tour stage victory in 1958, followed by another in 1959.
He was also the first British winner of the Dauphiné Libéré, now known as the Criterium du Dauphiné, in 1961, and finished on the podium at Milan-San Remo.
A hugely respected figure in the cycling community, Robinson paved the way for the likes of Tom Simpson, his friend, who became the first Briton to wear the yellow leader’s jersey of the Tour. But his achievements only really achieved wider acclaim in the build-up to the 2014 Grand Depart in Yorkshire, which passed very close to his home and for which he was an ambassador.
Robinson’s brother Desmond, an amateur rider, once said: “If you can imagine a Frenchman scoring a century at Lord’s, then you can imagine an Englishman winning a stage of the Tour de France.”
Born in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, Robinson joined Huddersfield Road Club as a teenager and later took up racing in between working for the family building company and doing his national service with the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.
“We marched twice as fast as anybody else,” he once told Telegraph Sport. “The rule was that Olympic possibles weren’t sent abroad. So that saved me from going to Korea with the other guys who I joined with in York. Some of them didn’t come back.”
Robinson competed for Britain at the 1952 Olympics before turning professional, riding the Tour for the first time in 1955 when he finished 29th.
He retired at the age of 33, returning to work as a builder, but continued to ride 80 miles a week well into his 80s.
In 2015, at the age of 84, he was awarded £15,000 compensation after he was left with a broken collar bone, six broken ribs and a punctured lung after being knocked off his bike by a car. He was back in the saddle just six weeks after the accident.
Robinson’s death was announced on Wednesday by his grandson and fellow cyclist Jake Womersley, who wrote on Twitter: “It’s with great sadness the family of Brian Robinson have to announce his passing yesterday.”