Winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award 2022: Beryl – In Search of Britain’s Greatest Athlete, Beryl Burton by Jeremy Wilson

Football may have had two titles in the shortlist of five finalists – Be Good, Love Brian: Growing Up with Brian Clough by Craig Bromfield and Expected Goals: The Story of how Data Conquered Football and Changed the Game Forever by Rory Smith – but it was Beryl – In Search of Britain’s Greatest Athlete, Beryl Burton by Jeremy Wilson that took the top prize.

The synopsis of the book is as follows:

Cyclist Beryl Burton – also known as BB – dominated her sport much as her male contemporary Eddy Merckx, but with a longevity that surpasses even sporting legends like Muhammad Ali, Serena Williams and Sir Steve Redgrave.

She was practically invincible in time trials, finishing as Best All-Rounder for 25 consecutive years and setting a world record in 1967 for the distance covered in 12 hours that beat the men. She won multiple world titles, even when the distances didn’t play to her strengths. But her achievements were limited by discrimination from the cycling authorities, and by her strictly amateur status against state-sponsored rivals from Eastern Bloc nations.

Yet she carried on winning, beating men and – infamously – competing against her own daughter, while working on a farm and running a household. Her motivation, sparked by appalling childhood illness, is as fascinating as her achievements are stunning.

With access to previously unseen correspondence and photographs, and through extensive interviews with family, friends, rivals and fellow giants from across sport, acclaimed journalist Jeremy Wilson peels back the layers to reveal one of the most complex, enigmatic and compelling characters in cycling history.

For the first time, he also provides the jaw-dropping answer to how fast she would still be on modern cycling technology. Long ignored by sporting history, Burton’s life story – recently told by Maxine Peake in a stage and radio play – is finally getting the recognition she deserves.

  • Publisher: Pursuit Books; Main edition (7 July 2022)
  • Hardcover: 352 pages


Buy the book here: Beryl

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2017 William Hill Sports Book of the Year: Winner

Tom Simpson: Bird on the Wire by Andy McGrath has won the 2017 WHSBOTY Award. It is the fourth book to scoop the prize following on from, Rough Ride: An Insight into Pro Cycling (1990), It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life (2000) and The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs (2012).

The book is published fifty years after Simpson’s death in the 1967 Tour de France, when it was discovered that there were drugs and alcohol in his system. A press release for the book explains:

Tom Simpson is British cycling’s greatest icon. Fifty years after he conquered the continental sporting scene, he still captivates people around the world. After his dramatic death on Mont Ventoux during the 1967 Tour de France, amphetamines and alcohol were found in his system, a fact which often dwarfs his pioneering achievements.

 From a humble upbringing in a Nottinghamshire mining town, Simpson became the first Briton to win the elite men’s World Championships and to wear the Tour de France’s yellow jersey. He also took victory at Milan Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders and the Tour of Lombardy, three of cycling’s most prestigious races. A charismatic and impulsive character, Simpson lived life fast, with a penchant for spectacular racing, sports cars and fanciful dreams.

 This man of contradictions was both people’s champion and pariah, gentleman and rogue. Guided by rare photography of Simpson, this book explores the Briton’s feats and complexities through untold stories from those closest to him.

 Main protagonists and interviews: Jan Janssen, Raymond Poulidor, Gianni Motta, Barry Hoban, Emile Daems, Brian Robinson, Vin Denson, Helen Hoban, Joanne Simpson, Henri Duez, Charly Wegelius, Dave Bonner, Billy Holmes, Keith Butler, Pete Ryalls and Professor Greg Whyte OBE.


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