Q&A: Dot Tilbury (Isle of Man)

The winner of Cycling Weekly’s 2019 Local Hero Award in association with Freewheel UK  was Dot Tilbury for her ceaseless work supporting young Manx riders – we have a Q&A with Dot!

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Q&A: Dot Tilbury (Isle of Man)

The winner of the 2019 Local Hero Award in association with Freewheel UK was Dot Tilbury for her ceaseless work supporting young Manx riders – we have a Q&A with Dot!

Dot with one of the many rider of the month winners, Will Draper

1. When did the Youth League start?
Dot: Alex Forrest & John Purvis of the Manx Viking Wheelers started the youth league in 1992. I took over the running of the event after the untimely death of Alex and the withdrawal of John due to business commitments.

2. What was the inspiration behind the league starting up?
Dot: The aim of the league was to encourage more children, especially those from a non-cycling background, to get involved in cycling.

3. How quickly did it take off to the point you were getting hundred, two hundred and more youngsters?
Dot: A total of 14 riders took part in the very first round of the league in 1992. Three years later the numbers competing weekly had passed the 100 mark, increasing rapidly year by year to reach the current average of 250 – 300 per round.

4. I am guessing that young riders from the cycling community is only a small part of the whole league – how did word on what was happening there spread on the Island.
Dot: News of the league was mainly spread by word of mouth, especially in the schools where the enthusiasm of the children already competing inspired others to come along.

5. Tell us about the circuit the races are held on in Douglas?
Dot: The races are held on a 1km perimeter track at the National Sports Centre. Before the centre was built in the early 90’s, the track had already been used for cycling events, including the youth races held during International Cycle Week.

6. What is the format of the racing for those not on racing bikes? Are they for any sort of bike?
Dot: There are categories for balance bikes, stabilisers, mountain bikes and racing bikes. Most of the children race in the mountain bikes classes before graduating to the racing bike events. The league has a large fleet of racing bikes that members can try before going to the expense of buying their own.

Dot with a star of the British racing, Matt Bostock back when he raced the league

7. You have had many stars come from the league headed up by Mark Cavendish; was it clear at the time you saw them racing as kids that they were going to be star professionals?
Dot: Mark Cavendish’s talent was obvious from the start. Other riders were spotted as they progressed through the league, gradually developing into top class competitors as they developed and gained experience. It has been especially pleasing to see more and more girls benefitting from the league. Top women riders Lizzie Holden, Anna Christian and Amelia Sharpe all showed potential in their early days in the league.

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8. Other youth leagues all round Britain, and the world no doubt, have much smaller overall numbers, concentrating on children on racing bikes – do you think every youth league should have both categories, the racers and the ones on any bike who can have a go and enjoy it.
Dot: Definitely. Most children do not own a pukka racing bike and in order to get them involved in the sport, there need to be classes for all types of bikes. The current crop of league graduates now competing at the highest level (five were on British Cycling’s long list for this year’s World Road Championships) all started their careers racing on mountain bikes.

9. With so many young riders, how many volunteers are needed to help run the racing on a Tuesday night?
Dot: To cover the event, we need at least 30 volunteers for each round of the league.

Dot with Amelia Sharp, another Ride of the month winner

10. Do the youngsters mainly come from Douglas or all-round the Isle of Man?
Dot: The majority come from the main centre of population (Douglas and the surrounding area), although there is a sizable representation from the rest of the island’s towns and villages.

11. The league also takes young riders, youth and juniors to Britain and Ireland to race – when did that start and what type of events do you target?
Dot: We started taking the riders to off-island competition almost immediately after the formation of the league. We go to all the major youth events, including the British National Series, the Dolan Series, the Omnium Track Champs, the Youth Tour of Scotland, the Errigal Youth Tour in Ireland, the British National Circuit Champs (BC & TLI) and the Cycling Time Trial Youth Champs. This year we made a total of 21 off-island trips, costing in excess of £50,000.

12. What other type of racing is there for the young riders outside of the League on the Isle of Man.
Dot: There is a youth mountain bike series and in the summer the older riders can compete in the island’s 10 mile time trial league and a handicap road race series.

14. The sponsors of the League – how long have they been helping you look at the youngsters there?
Dot: RL360 (formerly known as Scottish Provident & Royal London 360) has been sponsoring the league since 1994. This year is the 25th anniversary of their involvement and in that time the company has invested more than £140,000 in the development of youth cycling.
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15. Is the league just about racing or is there an element of coaching the youngsters too?
Dot: We don’t over coach the youngsters, giving them just enough advice to cover the basics while not inhibiting their enjoyment of the racing. In October and January, we take a large group of riders to the Newport and Derby velodromes for specialised track coaching sessions. We have a large stock of club tracks bikes for members to use.

16. How many races do you have on the one Tuesday evening?
Dot: There are a total of 11 races on the night, catering for 14 separate classes.

17. Is there time for anything else in your life or does it revolve around cycling?
Dot: I can’t get away from cycling for very long. In January, I organise a fundraising concert for the club. I also give the odd cycling talk to local organisations such as the Women’s Institute. However, I do find time to get out on my bike several times a week in an effort to get fit for the annual skiing holiday in the New Year.

18. Is there anything else you would like to see happen on the Isle of Man to help young cyclists? Changes to the league, other leagues or races?
Dot: Judging by the success we have enjoyed with the present set up, I think we’ve got it just about right at the moment. I think it is important to give the youngsters a break from cycling now and again to allow them time to enjoy other sports and activities.

19. Finally, the league has finished for another season – are there other cycling events like cyclo cross etc the youngsters get involved in during the autumn and winter?
Dot: Apart from a few mountain bike events, there are no other competitive youth events on the calendar during the winter. However the club does run a weekly turbo training session from November to the start of the league in April and at Christmas we have a Family Fun Ride along the Douglas to Crosby disused railway line.

Thanks to Dot for the Q&A and congratulations on yet another honour which is very well deserved. 


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