Cycling champion dubbed the ‘pocket rocket’ whose spectacular feats in the 1950s captured the public imagination Eileen Sheridan training at Herne Hill cycle track in London in July 1952 in preparation for an attempt on the one-hour track record. Eileen Sheridan, who has died aged 99, was a multiple cycling champion who became a household name in Britain in the late 1940s and early 50s thanks to a series of spectacular record attempts. However, she retired relatively young because she had exhausted the meagre opportunities that the sport offered to women at the time.
As a professional cyclist racing for the Hercules bicycle company from 1951 to 1954, Sheridan captured the public imagination, “defining cycling as Roger Bannister defined athletics or Dennis Compton cricket” according to the bike-racing historian Peter Whitfield. Records such as London-Holyhead or Edinburgh-London were easy for the man in the street to understand; Hercules marketed the diminutive Sheridan heavily as the “Pocket Rocket” – “no ordinary woman” said the Pathé newsreels , while she had an unerring ability to smile in every photograph.
Records such as London-Portsmouth-London and Land’s End-London were merely part of the build-up to the most prestigious one of all: Land’s End-John O’Groats, which Sheridan tackled in July 1954, accompanied by a large flatbed lorry carrying a caravan and a portable toilet. She went through a crisis after almost 48 hours in the saddle, suffering from sleep deprivation, debilitating cold and sore hands, but, wearing every stitch of clothing available, she smashed the previous […]
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