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British cycling pioneer Brian Robinson dies aged 91

Robinson's success in the 1950s and 60s paved the way for British riders, such as Tom Simpson and Bradley Wiggins.

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Pioneering British cyclist Brian Robinson has died aged 91.

His grandson Jake Womersley, a former rider himself, confirmed the news Wednesday morning.

Robinson became the first British cyclist to win a stage of the Tour de France when he won stage 7 of the 1958 Tour de France.

He won a second stage of the race in 1959 following a long solo breakaway, beating the peloton by some 20 minutes on the 202km stage 20 from Annecy to Chalon sur Saône.

Born in Yorkshire, England in 1930, Robinson took up cycling in his early teens, but his father only allowed him to start racing when he was 18. Prior to turning professional, he worked in his family’s building business and got in his training rides before and after his shifts.

He began racing internationally in the early 1950s while doing national service for the British Army and competed at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki — riding across the line with his brother Desmond.

Having finished second overall at the 1954 Tour of Britain, the following season proved to be a breakthrough year for him. In the spring, he had finished eighth overall at Paris-Nice, at just over two minutes behind Jean Bobet, and finished fourth at Flèche Wallonne.

His Hercules team went to the Tour de France in the summer, and he was among the nine riders picked to represent them. Hercules was the first British team to ride the Tour de France — Robinson was just the third British rider to race it — and he was one of just one of two riders for the team that made it all the way to Paris.

Robinson’s career took off after that and he would go on to take eighth overall at the 1956 Vuelta a España and 14th overall at that year’s Tour. His first major international victory came at the 1957 GP Nice, where he beat three-time Tour de France champion Louison Bobet to the line by 50 seconds. He also finished third at that year’s Milan-San Remo.

His Tour stage win finally came in 1958, though it was Arrigo Padovan that crossed the line first. The Italian was relegated from first place due to irregular sprinting. That year, he also won the mountains classification at Paris-Nice.

After adding a second Tour stage win the following year, he would go on to claim the overall title at the 1961 Critérium du Dauphiné. Robinson retired following the 1962 season aged 33.

Robinson’s success paved the way for generations of British riders, from Tom Simpson to the current crop in today’s professional peloton.