Eileen Sheridan, Who Dominated Cycling in Postwar Britain, Dies at 99

Eileen Sheridan, who dominated women’s cycling in Britain in the decade following World War II and is still considered one of the best cyclists, male or female, the country has ever produced, has died. Sunday at his home in Isleworth, a suburb of London. She was 99.

Bob Allen, president of Coventry Cycling ClubAn amateur equestrian group of which Ms. Sheridan was a longtime member and former president, confirmed the death.

4 feet 11 inches tall, Mrs. Sheridan was known as the Mighty Atom, and like her name suggests, she caught the attention of a nation trying to explain the meaning of war and the aftermath of the war. its fruit. It was the golden age of cycling, when millions of Britons took every opportunity to cycle beyond bombed cities into the peaceful countryside, and many turned to Mrs. be inspired.

She is dedicated and physically gifted, but she seems to be motivated less by competitive ambition than by the sheer joy of the ride. She was introduced to the sport by her husband, Kenneth, and started as a regular racer with the Coventry club. But she got into racing after her fellow club members noticed her extraordinary speed and endurance.

“I am one of those people that if I go to an event, no matter how small, I have to give it my all,” she said in an interview included in “Fighting Eileena 2014 short documentary about her life.

In 1945, her first year in cycling, Sheridan won the women’s national time trial championship in the 25-mile distance, and in the following years she also won the distance. 50 and 100 miles. After going pro in 1951, she broke 21 women’s time records, five of which she still keeps.

She is best remembered for her epic trip in July 1954 from Land’s End, at the southwestern tip of England, to John O’Groatson the northern edge of Scotland — the 870-mile trek she completed in just 2 days, 11 hours and 7 minutes, almost 12 hours faster than the previous record.

She’d had six months of training, but the ride was still exhausting, with mountains and rough roads, not to mention cold nights even in the middle of summer. She had blisters on her palm that hurt so much that she had to hold on to the handlebars with her thumb until her support team was able to wrap the handlebars with a sponge.

“We had a nurse,” she said in the documentary, “and she literally cried.”

When she arrived at John O’Groats, after only getting 15 minutes of sleep the previous two days, she decided to run further to see if she could set a women’s record for the fastest 1,000-mile run. She takes a 1 hour 48 minute break, enough to have a quick dinner and rest. Then she got on her bike and went into the night.

She began to stagger to the side. She has hallucinations of friends urging her on and strangers pointing her in the wrong direction; She even imagined a polar bear. But she continued her journey and reached her final destination, the John O’Groats Hotel, the next morning, after cycling for three days and an hour. She celebrated with a glass of cherry wine at home.

Her 1,000-mile record stood for 48 years, until Lynne Taylor of Scotland broke it in 2002.

Constance Eileen Shaw was born on October 18, 1923 in Coventry, England. Her father worked for an automobile manufacturer, and her mother stayed at home.

Her first sports passion was swimming, but that changed after her father bought her a bicycle when she was 14 years old.

She was working in an office in Coventry when World War II began. During the night of November 14, 1940, the Germans dropped hundreds of high-explosive bombs on the city, causing a fire that consumed the city’s cathedral. She made her way through the rubble on her way to work the next morning and counted the hours until she was free to drive out of the city.

“Bicycles and cycling are our blessings,” she told The Telegraph, a London newspaper, in 2021.

She married Kenneth Sheridan, an engineer, in 1942; he died in 2012. Her survivors include son Clive and daughter Louise Sheridan.

Ms. Sheridan joined the Coventry Cycling Club in 1944. She broke the club’s record for a 25-mile test run in her first race, finishing in just one hour 13 minutes 34 seconds. Two years later, she broke her own record, finishing in 1 hour 7 minutes 35 seconds.

Over the next few years, she won virtually every women’s competition, though she often struggled with the sexist expectations of a society that didn’t have much room for athletes. female. (For example, the Olympics didn’t add women’s cycling until 1984.)

In a 2013 interview for “The Bike Show” radio show, she recalled an instance in 1950 when at a reception in London where she was about to present an award, she struck up a conversation with a man man sitting next to him.

“We were chatting and I was just about to get up when he whispered in my ear, ‘I can’t stand these female champions, I like my ladies to be girly’,” she said. speak. “I looked at him, put my hand on his shoulder and said, ‘I’m sorry. When I turned around, he was gone.”

When Mrs. Sheridan decided to go professional in 1951, she signed a three-year contract with Hercules, a bicycle manufacturer, although it meant she would be banned from racing forever. Hercules wanted her to tackle as many records as possible using his bike, and she completed the task quickly.

“They would give me a day’s notice and say ‘You’re going from London to Edinburgh’ or ‘London to Bath and back’ which is a record I still hold,” she told The Western Mail of Cardiff. , Wales, in 2008.

“I must not grumble,” she added. “I had a great time and it’s a great sport.”

She retired after her contract ran out, although she still occasionally participates in advertising or charity races. She spent the rest of her life supporting women cyclists as a spokesperson, witnessing amazement and admiration as generations of young cyclists flooded through the door. which she opened.


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