HEROINES OF WOMEN'S CYCLING

We meet again today for a second episode of "Born to make history". Discover these 4 strong and ambitious women cyclists of the years 1900-1950. Enjoy!

*****billie Fleming women cycling

BILLIE FLEMING British 1914-2014


Billie Fleming began cycling with a passion at the age of 18, traveling across the UK to promote the health benefits of cycling to the general public. And it was at the age of 24 (in 1938) that she set the women's record for the longest distance covered in one year. Record of 47,641 km (an average of two consecutive Tours de France). Her record was still valid until 2015. The Tour du Billie attracted a lot of interest and fascination from other women cyclists and attention from the international press. Before achieving this record she approached her sponsors (Rudge-Whitworth Cycles and Cadbury Chocolate) for quality equipment (and quality gourmet breaks). She did it on her own: she rode during the day, took breaks in cafés (she didn't take anything on her bike) and gave lectures on cycling and fitness in the evening. She documented her kilometers every day using the registration point system and signature cards from Cycling magazine. After her world tour, she planned to cross the United States but the second world war prevented her from doing so. She then turned to a little known discipline: tricycle racing. This time it was about speed and not endurance. She set 3 new records and wanted to join the exclusive tricycle association, but she was refused entry (3 records was probably not enough) (for a woman). 
Bille Fleming is still an inspiration for many women today. In 2015, a tribute cycle has been organized with the aim of recreating her famous 1938 record. She passed away at the age of 100 (as a result of the health benefits of cycling). 



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Joyce Barry cyclist women

JOYCE BARRY Australian 1919-1999  


Joyce Barry is going to discover the bike in spite of herself. Suffering from pneumonia, her doctor advises her to ride a bike to facilitate her recovery. (and he did well) She's going to be one of Australia's top cyclists. Trained by "Australia's greatest cyclist": Hubert Opperman. 
Back on 3 of these records: Ambitious, at the age of 17 she announced her intention to challenge the record from Sydney to Melbourne (914 km), which at the time was 3 days and 1 hour (held by Billie Samuels in 1935). 12 months after her announcement, Joyce broke the record, in 2 days and 2 hours (Belief in you has never been so true) In 1938, she set a women's record: 1782 km in 7 days, then a world record of seven days of continuous cycling. This was followed by many other records for long-distance cycling, sponsored by the Marvin Star (an Australian bicycle manufacturer).
She became a role model for many women cyclists, to whom she always gives advice and encouragement. 

*****Eileen Gray women cyclist

EILEEN GRAY British 1920-2015 
She has organized events, meetings, served on national committees, and lobbied for years to get women taken seriously on the road and on the track. 
Eileen Gray discovered cycling thanks to a railway strike that prevented her from getting to work. She was an engineer in an engine factory. So now she decides to ride her bike to work. That's where her story with the bicycle begins. Taking a passion for cycling, she quickly joined a cycling club (the only one that accepted women). She will later do a lot for her favorite sport: She created the Women's Cycle Racing Association (WRCA) and within this association was born the first international women's cycling team in Great Britain. In 1955, she convinced the UCI (Union Cyclist International) to officially record women's track records. Women were (officially) able to participate in the world championships (not count for squat 😉). She was president of the British Cycling Federation (now known as British cycling), which helped to strengthen the position of women in cycling. She successfully lobbied for the inclusion of women's cycling in the Olympic Games from 1984.
"Cycling was the one thing that changed me from a shy young woman into the confident person that I became... I don't think I really realized quite the impact it made until much later on"

*****eileen sheridan woman cyclist

EILEEN SHERIDAN  British, 1923 
Eileen (again! would that be the name for women's cycling?) Sheridan is a small size (1m50) but not a small course. Specialized in time trial and road cycling. She joined the Coventry Cycling Club in 1944, where she received a lot of help from great friendships. She immediately loved the spirit of the club (the moments spent there were among the happiest of her life). She served as president and is still a member today. 3 championships and 5 record performances on the road. She is a positive force for cycling and still speaks enthusiastically about her passion. 
She spent the years 40-55 on her bike, setting all the Women's Road Records Association records. Hercules bikes sponsored her in 1950. She participates in many track races, but it is the road time trials and point-to-point timed races that she is passionate about and which have become her specialtyBetween 1945 and 1955, she broke 21 women's distance and place records. Many of them were maintained for decades, some of them until the end of the century, and some, such as her London-Liverpool and London-Edinburgh races, are still held today.
She tells the story of her cycling beginnings: "We used to ride in our baggy shorts, not padded of course, and a sweater with a pocket on the front where we kept our food. It opened like a sail as we cycled! I wore chamois leather shorts when I was racing, but that's as smart as it got! There were no showers or anything. We used to finish, find out our time, and ride home!''
"The proof of their intense preparation is the glorious results our women cyclists achieve - which they truly deserve.  I wish everyone happy cycling!"

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Awaiting the next episode next Saturday, you can watch Spinning Wheels: the sport of cycling in the 1950s, a documentary film, directed by Dunlop.  A film in which Eileen Sheridan participated.

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You missed the first episode of "born to make history"? Don't worry girl, you can find it here.