IN THE CYCLING world Brian Robinson and Lisa Brambani are legends in their own lifetimes.
Brian, now 81, but still cycling around his native West Yorkshire, was the first Brit to win a stage of the Tour de France, while Lisa, just over half his age at 45, represented Britain in the 1988 Seoul Olympics and went on to become a silver medallist in the Commonwealth Games.
Given that cycling was such an important part of their lives perhaps it’s not surprising that a love of the sport was passed on in the genes.
Brian’s daughter Louise has long been a competitive cyclist and now his grandson, Jake Womersley, 16, – his daughter Michelle’s son – has ambitions to become a professional.
Lisa, who still lives near Hartshead where she was brought up, says she never actively encouraged her daughter, 15-year-old Abby Parkinson, to become a cyclist but the teenager has nevertheless become a national junior champion.
Jake, from Mirfield, has been riding a bike since he could walk. When he was still quite small his mum took him along to a nursery group at the East Bradford Cycling Club. He began competing three years ago and at 14 entered his first national championships in Bradford.
He said: “I thought I had no chance of doing well but I came third so I started taking it more seriously.”
He has grown up knowing that his grandfather, also from Mirfield, was a champion and it has given him something to aim for.
Brian, who says his own interest in cycling began at the age of three “on a tin tricycle”, was encouraged to take up the sport by his older brother Desmond – another of the area’s famous veteran cyclists.
“Bikes were a poor man’s transport in those days,” said Brian. “We used to cycle everywhere. I was too young to join the Huddersfield Road Club with my brother but I tagged along anyway. I rode with people older than me so by the time I could race at the age of 18 I was in good shape.”
Brian even managed to spend his National Service in the Army’s cycling unit and joined the Hercules professional team back in 1954.
His cycling accolades are too numerous to mention but he is a past Olympian and was the first British rider to finish the Tour de France. Today he retains such an interest in the sport that he is campaigning for a stage of the Tour de France in Yorkshire. He is also the inspiration behind the annual Brian Robinson Cycling Challenge in the county.
Grandson Jake competes in Cyclo-Cross and close circuit racing events.
He is a member of the Sportscover Altura RT team and a past winner in his age group of the National Series which is ridden over six races. Last year he was identified as a future British Olympian in the Lloyds TSB Local Heroes initiative and was awarded £1,000 towards training and competing.
A student at Mirfield Free Grammar School, where he is planning to take PE to A level, Jake says cycling appeals to his competitive nature.
He trains six days a week, cycling anything from 30 to 60 miles a day.
“It’s a sociable sport as well as something you can do on your own,” said Jake. “I have made most of my friends through cycling.”
He even found a girlfriend from among the ranks of young competitive riders – Lisa’s daughter Abby – creating a link between the two famous local cycling families.
Abby, a student at Bradford Grammar School, showed early signs of athletic prowess when she became a North of England swimming champion before the age of nine.
“We thought she was going to be a swimmer,” says Lisa, who married fellow cyclist Mike Parkinson back in 1995.
“And then she wanted to do triathlons. She represented Yorkshire under 12s, went in for fell running competitions and was a Yorkshire cross country champion as well.
“But it wasn’t until we took her to the local cycling track one day and met up with some of the people I used to cycle with that she really got into cycling. Of the three triathlon disciplines she liked the cycling the best. She’s only been competing for two years.”
Lisa was just 23 when she retired from professional cycling after spending much of her time competing in America.
She blames lack of support for female cyclists in the UK for the fact she had to go abroad.
She said: “In those days if you turned professional in the UK you couldn’t do the Olympics but you could go to America, ride professionally and retain amateur status here.
“I found it hard being away from home all the time. My parents didn’t come from a cycling background so while they supported me they didn’t really understand the life and the pressures. Looking back on it I regret giving it up so early on.”
However Abby, who is a member of the RST racing team, has two parents who are fully aware of the demands of cycling. What’s more, through their family business, Liversedge-based Triton Construction, they offer sponsorship to other young cyclists.
“I think one of the reasons why Abby and Jake get on so well is that they understand the restrictions of each other’s lifestyles,” said Lisa. “While their friends from school might be going on nights out they have to go to bed early and get up early. Abby has been allowed to drop a language at school to free up time for her to do her homework because she has to train every day.”
So far, her dedication is paying off.
Abby recently broke the national record for 10-mile time trials for a 16-year-old, completing the circuit in 21 minutes 44 second, nearly one minute less than the previous record.
She belongs to a new generation of female cyclists with, Lisa hopes, more opportunities than she had 20 years ago.
And so the baton has been passed seamlessly down the generations and it may just be that we’re looking at yet more future cycling Olympians from Huddersfield.