Brian Robinson’s greatest achievements on two wheels

A look back at the Yorkshireman's biggest accomplishments on the road

Brian Robinson
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Brian Robinson, the first British rider to finish the Tour de France and win a Tour stage, passed away last month aged 91.

He made history as a British rider at the Tour in 1955, when he finished 29th, and went on to forge a successful career on the continent.

Robinson finished eighth at the 1956 Vuelta a España, and came third in Milan-San Remo the following year. But it was in 1958 that he really made history, becoming the first rider from the UK to win a stage of the Tour de France; the following year he won another. He went on to win the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré in one of his last years at the top.

It was not only the manner of these achievements that made them special, but that he was the first to do them, at a time when going to France to be a professional cyclist was practically unheard of.

>>> Obituary: Brian Robinson, 1930 - 2022, 'he was the real pioneer'

Here are some of his greatest achievements across his history-making professional career.

1955 Tour de France

Robinson was one of the seven British riders who lined up as part of the first Great Britain team for the Tour in 1955, aged 24. His best result was 15th on a stage to Saint-Gaudens, but he managed to complete the race in 29th race, and thus become the first Briton to finish the Tour ever, in 132 hours, 26 minutes and 36 seconds. Tony Hoar, the other British rider to finish, was four hours behind and the race’s lanterne rouge.

1956 Vuelta a España

The next year, not content with the record he had set the year before, he became the first British rider to finish in the top ten of a Grand Tour, finishing eighth at the Vuelta. He was part of the Switzerland/Mixed team which also contained the great Hugo Koblet. Robinson finished in the top ten with legendary riders like Federico Bahamontes and Rik van Steenbergen.

1957 Milan-San Remo

Seven years before fellow British rider Tom Simpson won the Monument, Robinson became the first rider from the UK to finish on the podium of the Italian one-day race. In a small group sprint, he found himself bested by Miguel Poblet and Alfred De Bruyne, two of the greats of the age.

1958 Tour de France, stage seven

After a 170km stage from Saint-Brieuc to Brest in his fourth Tour, Robinson was awarded victory over Arigo Padovan after the Italian was relegated for dangerous tactics. It was the first Grand Tour stage win by a Brit, a landmark moment.

1959 Tour de France, stage 20

His second Tour stage win was simply the kind of victory that you don’t get anymore. After staying in the race despite missing the time cut thanks to the goodwill of the commissaires, he went on a mad 140km solo breakaway. He ended up winning the 202km stage from Annecy to Chalon-sur-Saône by over 20 minutes.

1961 Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré

His biggest general classification victory came in the final years of his career, as he became the first British rider to win the Dauphiné, one of the biggest stage races outside of the Grand Tours. A stage win on the third day in Villefrance-sur-Saône set up his overall title, which showed his consistency at the top level of European racing in the era.

This article originally appeared in the 3 November issue of Cycling Weekly.

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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.