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Robinson vows to keep on pedalling

Brian Robinson - competing in 1959 and today Photo: Press Association

Brian Robinson, the first Briton to win a stage on the Tour de France, has now decided he will stay on his bike until at least 2014.

The delighted 82-year-old, who still knocks out a 40-mile ride two days a week, is determined to be at the 2014 Tour de France when it starts in his home county of Yorkshire.

"We do not know where it is going yet but I am hoping it will go through Holme Moss. I call it my hill because we used to race up it," he said.

"You can see all the riders coming over it for two miles. It is a beautiful spot."

Robinson, who was part of Yorkshire's winning bid to host the start of the Tour, said: "I am hoping that it is signed off already to go there.

"I have got a target now until 2014 to keep on riding. If it goes over Holme Moss, I will make sure that I am at the bottom of it."

To British cycling's passionate enthusiasts Robinson is a treasure from yesteryear alongside the stature of Bobby Moore in football and Fred Perry for tennis fans.

He was a forerunner of the British talent, including 2012 Tour de France winner and Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins, who now dominate the sport both on and off the track.

Bradley Wiggins 2012 Tour winner Credit: Press Association

Robinson hails from a working class background in Mirfield, West Yorkshire. He left school at 14 then went on to technical college before working for his father in his joinery and carpentry firm.

He followed his brother Des, who was also a successful amateur rider, into the world of cycling.

Robinson recalls being "just fascinated" as a child at the sepia photographs of the Tour complete with its magnificent scenery and torturous bends.

He was the first British rider to finish the Tour and he became the first British rider to win a stage of the Tour de France in 1958. It was Stage 7 in Brest.

Robinson won a second and famous Tour de France victory in Chalon-sur-Saone in 1959 after a solo ride of 150km.

He attacked alone on Stage 20 and won by more than 20 minutes to record an epic win.

It all helped pave the way for later riders such as Tom Simpson, Barry Hoban and Robert Millar to achieve success.

He could hardly believe his first sight of the Pyrenees in 1952. "It was a shock having to go up them. Up in the sky there was something glittering in the distance.

"It was the cars (the Tour's publicity caravan) that had gone up before us. I thought 'we have still got all that way to go'.

"You put your head down and you are pounding away most of the time on the Pyrenees."

To this day Robinson bubbles with pride about his sport and is prepared to travel, despite his years, to act as an ambassador.

"As long as it is promoting cycling, then it is OK," he said.

To know someone who is that talented and that humble is a privilege, Peter Ralph of the Huddersfield and District CTC states. He said: "I have great respect for him. I worship the wheels that he rides on. He is very well respected here and across Europe."

The tour last started in Britain in 2007, when the Grand Depart was held in London and Kent.

On hearing the Tour would be coming back to British shores Leeds-born cyclist Lizzie Armitstead, who won silver at the London 2012 Olympic road race, tweeted: "Pretty amazing that the Tour de France will start in Leeds in 2014! Always new (sic) it was the centre of the universe!"

Lizzie Armitstead Credit: ITV Yorkshire

Yorkshire will host the first two days of racing on July 5 and 6, 2014 before the Tour moves south for a third stage in southern England, with a finish in London.

Officials would not say how much they paid to host the event.

Britain now has a talented pool of riders who can be at the front of the peloton. Robinson notes it "was the odd guy in my day - I am very pleased for the youngsters".

Robinson dedicated himself to putting in the hard work, travelling to Europe to get the experience needed to give him a fighting chance in the peloton.

He even sold his Vauxhall Velox back in 1956 to afford to go back.

Of his own historic breakthrough in winning a stage, Robinson said: "As a professional, winning a stage meant it secured your job for the next two years.

"There was not a lot of emotion. There was just the satisfaction of winning and that you had done something that nobody else had done. We were always proud of what we did."

Today's riders have greater technology and masterminds like coach Dave Brailsford at the helm but they still have to grind out the miles to finish the race, Robinson states ; "I was pretty satisfied to finish my first Tour," he recalls.

"In those days only about 50% of starters finished. We did not have people like Brailsford who has all this expertise on diet and racing.

"Things were a lot different but it is still not easier to win. You still have to race.

"In my day you just got on your bike and rode it. There was no big demands on you from sponsors but there was also no big money either. We were young and hungry."

Now there is the 2014 Tour to look forward to he said, adding: "It is great. It is like going full circle from when I was a wee little boy who could only dream of riding the Tour."

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