By Victor Alway
For our Local Hero Award we are once again looking for an individual who puts their heart and soul in to their local cycling community throughout the year, tirelessly working to; put on events, help, support and encourage others to take part, or just make things happen.
We need you to tell us your stories, championing either yourself, or a friend, colleague or teammate, to tell us what it is that makes that person a local hero.
Cycling Weekly editor Simon Richardson said: "This year, more than ever, the tireless work of volunteers has come in to sharp focus. It was the lack of events during lockdown that made me realise just how much racing there was going on in any given week. And just how much we take that for granted. Coaches and organisers have been as desperate to get back to running events and sessions as riders have been to ride them. They've had to think on their feet, and adapt what they do while also considering the safety of all involved. It must have been quite daunting.
"The work of the sport's volunteers should to be celebrated more than ever. Thanks to everyone who supports the sport with their time and enthusiasm, and good luck to all those nominated for this award."
Previous winners of the Local Hero Award
2019 - Dot Tilbury
Dot received her award from Peter Kennaugh in 2019 and was honoured for her ceaseless support of young riders from the Isle of Mann
Cycling Weekly was delighted to celebrate the ceaseless work Dot has done to support riders from the Isle of Man following their passion for more than two decades.
When identifying regions of the British Isles which have given us clutches of professional cyclists the Isle of Man would be right up there. Most of us could name at least two from the island, and with a population of only 80,000 it has no right to have been such a cycling production line.
Mark Cavendish is perhaps the most famous, and easily the most decorated, but there is Pete Kennaugh, Mark Christian, his sister Anna, Lizzie Holden, Matthew Bostock and more.
One person all these top riders have in common is Dot Tilbury MBE. For years Dot has been organising and running cycling training, racing and leagues for the Isle of Man’s young people, and has influenced each of them to a lesser, or likely greater extent.
“I don’t think any Manx rider has come through and got to where they’ve got without help from Dot,” says Anna Christian, the former under-23 national time trial champion who currently rides for Drops.
“I would never have taken up cycling if she hadn’t have been holding the league. There’s a lot of us that have gone through that just for enjoyment on a Tuesday evening and ended up turning it into a career. She gives everyone a great racing experience, and great opportunities.”
With dreams of being a “Laura Ashley girl on a bike with a basket” Dot bought her first bike in the 1960s. Her husband pointed out the British racing green sit-up-and-beg was not best suited for the island’s hills and suggested a racing bike would be more appropriate. With help from Post Office colleague and British Empire and Commonwealth Games medallist, Stuart Slack, she chose a Peugeot racing bike, and the die was cast.
Dot would race the local time trials, “at a very low level, but I got involved and then I started getting on committees”. When friends Alex Forrest and John Purvis began running a youth cycling league at the National Sports Centre after convincing the government to refurbish the half-mile road circuit, but when Forrest died and Purvis’s work commitments got in the way, in 1994 Dot stepped in.
“We had 14 kids and there was nobody to take over,” Tilbury told CW. “I said I can’t disappoint 14 kids, so I’ll take over and I’ve been doing it ever since.
“Their ages were from five up to 16, and of course you can’t put five-year-olds with 16-year-olds, so we tried all sorts of things just to ring the changes. We used to have Le Mans starts where they lie on the track and run to their bike, and we had loads of handicap races.
“The next year we had 39 riders, and the word started to get out and all of a sudden we’d got 100 riders, and we had to rethink how we ran it.”
In that first year a friend of the league asked her boss at Scottish Provident if they would sponsor them and the company donated £500.
“We thought we’d died and gone to heaven! Back then it was massive and we’ve been with them ever since, and this year we’re celebrating 25 years with Team Scottish Provident which is now RL360.
“Mark Cavendish and Christian Varley came down, and they got on the British Academy and Mark went on to be quite famous,” she says with mischievous understatement. “Then Peter Kennaugh and nearly all the riders who are currently riding professionally like Mark Christian, Anna Christian, Lizzie Holden, Matthew Bostock.”
Now every Tuesday evening through the summer they run multiple races in their leagues, with riders from all categories waiting in a holding area, starting as soon as the preceding event finishes.
“We’ve got a full night of racing,” she says. “This year we’ve signed on over 500 riders. At its peak when Mark Cavendish was really winning, we signed on 600.
“It’s been amazing, but it’s true what they say, success breeds success, and Mark Cavendish and Peter Kennaugh are role models.”
But it’s not just the Tuesday league Dot runs. In the winter there are spin classes and this year RL360 Cycling have sent 27 trips to the mainland, road racing in all the main youth national series and track sessions at Newport and Derby velodromes.
Those CW readers who voted for Dot are not the only ones to recognise her efforts. The Bidlake Memorial Plaque was first awarded for outstanding achievements in cycling in 1934 and some big names have received it. Dot won it in 2013, ironically two years after Cavendish, who may not have reached the heights had it not been for Dot.
In 2010 Dot was one of the first 50 members of British Cycling’s Hall of Fame, but her highest award is being given an MBE in 2006, one honour she achieved before Cavendish. Dot has an infectious character, overflowing with enthusiasm for what she does.
Typically for one who devotes her time to others, when asked a question about herself she deflects, refusing to take too much credit for all those successes.
“I always say the kids have done it themselves and I have just provided the wherewithal to go away and be consistent. It’s not been rocket science. And I’m still as keen as ever.”
2018 - Peter Harrison
Organising this year’s Road Race National Championships was the latest of a long list of achievements from our 2018 Local Hero, Peter Harrison.
“My mantra has always been to put back in the sport more than you take out, so I was very proud, humbled and honoured to have been awarded this,” Harrison told us. “It’s the first time I’ve been nervous going on stage — when my photo came up I thought, this is getting real!”
Harrison’s life in cycling dates back to the early 1960s when he joined Gosforth Road Club, aged 14.
“I’d be playing rugby on a Saturday and there was not much to do on a Sunday and it just seemed like a good idea to join this club. There were probably six or seven of us who joined the Gosforth at the same time. The north-east of England was a very strong region and we started to go out and train and ride with them.”
Now the club chairman, at one point he was the only member. “Everyone else had gone to other clubs and I thought, ‘Balls to this, I’m not going to let this die!’”
He began helping organise races in his 20s, despite continuing a competitive road and track career which saw him claim his first-category licence, and by the time he hung up his race wheels his passion for organising was in full flow.
He organised his first pro race in 1986 at the request of South Tyneside Council, after already being in charge of the Beaumont Trophy for some years. He took that up to UCI level, has staged the Road Race National Championships twice, and in the 2000s added recreational events in the form of the Cyclone Festival of Cycling.
“I had some great tutors who taught me the craft of putting on a professional race where everything was right and I’ve tried to carry that forward.”
“I don’t know,” he sighs when asked why he does it. “I enjoy the challenge of organising.”
It’s not just races. Harrison has sat on numerous national and local committees, helped create the Cytech mechanics’ qualification, worked for Shimano, been a technical consultant for Team GB, owned bike shops and is a commissaire.
Whatever his motivation, it’s clear that without people like Peter Harrison, our other nominees and others like them, British cycling wouldn’t be what it is today.
As previously, the Cycling Weekly Award winners will be nominated and voted for by you. Anyone is welcome to nominate the individual they feel deserves recognition.
Following the close of nominations at 5pm on 15 October, the Cycling Weekly judging panel will decide on a shortlist of contenders. The panel will be influenced by the strength of the story of the nominee’s dedication and achievement.
On 05 November, we will announce the shortlisted candidates in the magazine and online, sharing their stories and inviting you to vote for your winners online, with voting closing on 12 November.
The winners will be revealed in our online virtual ceremony on 15 December, with guests joining us from around the world. Start nominating!
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