Brian Robinson, first Briton to win Tour de France stage, dies aged 91

Yorkshireman was the first British rider to finish Tour de France in 1955

Brian Robinson
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Brian Robinson, the first British rider to finish the Tour de France and win a Tour stage, has died aged 91, his family announced on Wednesday morning.

The Yorkshireman, born in Mirfield in 1930, dedicated himself to cycling both on and off the bike and achieved huge feats in the sport.

The news was announced by his grandson, Jake Womersley, on Twitter on Wednesday: "It's with great sadness the family of Brian Robinson have to announce his passing yesterday. Funeral detail[s] to follow."

In 1955 Robinson became the first British rider to ever finish Tour de France, but that was far from the end of his achievements.

The following years were filled with ground-breaking success for a Briton, including a top-10 finish in the Vuelta a España in 1956, and a podium place in Milan-San Remo.

Then, in 1958 Robinson, won a stage of the Tour de France, followed by a second stage of the race the following year.

>>> Brian Robinson: Britain's first Tour de France hero

He won stage 7 of the 1958 Tour de France, and then 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.

He went on to win the overall at the Critérium du Dauphiné in 1961. He retired from professional cycling aged 33 in 1963, having paved the way for Brits like Tom Simpson, and the plethora of riders from the UK who have achieved great things in the sport since then.

Robinson was a president of the Dave Rayner Fund for young Brits racing abroad, was a patron of the charity StreetBikes and was a major figure involved in bringing the Tour de France to Yorkshire in 2014.

In 2018, he was given a lifetime achievement award at the Cycling Weekly awards, for his efforts on and off the bike.

The news of the 91-year-old's passing was greeted with a wave of sadness and tributes on social media.

The Rayner Foundation said that the "cycling world has lost a giant and a true friend" in a statement published on Wednesday afternoon.

"The Committee of the Rayner Foundation are very sad to learn of the passing of their dear friend Brian Robinson," the statement reads. "His lifetime achievements are legendary, and we have been honoured by the influential role which he adopted in our formative years. He became President of the Foundation in 2008 a position he held until his passing. 

"The work of the Foundation has always been close to his heart and we have been privileged to share his wisdom and benefit from his leadership. The cycling world has lost a giant and a true friend. He will be sorely missed, and we would like to like to pass on our condolences to his family, our thoughts are with them."

TV commentator Ned Boulting tweeted: "Just heard that Brian Robinson has died. The saddest news. He was a great man, a fierce competitor, a trailblazer, a generous soul, funny as hell and kinder than you could imagine. Yorkshire, England, has lost a Great."

Chris Sidwells, a journalist who knew Robinson, posted: "I have a great sense of personal loss today to learn of the death of Brian Robinson, the first British winner of a stage in the Tour de France. It was an absolute honour to have known Brian, a man of great achievement and great modesty. Respect!"

Brian Cookson, the former UCI president, tweeted: "Sad to hear of the passing of Brian Robinson, but what a great life - a true pioneer of our sport. Condolences to his family. Rest in Peace."

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.