Victory at the 1957 GP de la Ville de Nice was Robinson’s first as a professional, followed that year by his third at Milan-San Remo – the first Briton to reach the podium.
It was in the 1958 Tour de France that Robinson took his momentous stage victory. On Stage 7, at Brest, he and Italian rider Arigo Padovan were engaged in a furious sprint for the finish line when Padovan rode Robinson into the railings. Recovering to finish second, Robinson did not learn of the decision to award him the win until later that evening.
Reflecting on later life, he said, “After he put me in the rim, I came back within half a wheel, so the judges gave it to me. Which, you know, isn’t exactly a good win, but anyway, we fixed that the following year.
This Robinson did it spectacularly. Feeling strong before the 20th stage of the 1959 Tour, 202 km from Annecy to Chalon-sur-Saône, he instructed the team mechanic to fit his bike with super light tyres. Robinson escaped early, followed by Jean Dotto.
Dotto stayed with Robinson until the top of the first climb, but was dropped on the descent, unable to match the fearless speed of the Englishman. With 140km remaining and an intermittent headwind, Robinson rode relentlessly, gaining time over the peloton with every kilometer. When he crossed the finish line at Chalon that afternoon he had a margin of victory of 20 minutes – still one of the largest in cycling history.
In 1961, he became the first Briton to win the Critérium du Dauphiné-Libéré. He retired at 33, returning to England and expanding his father’s building business to great success.