Timekeeping at a time trial in the morning, marshalling a road race in the afternoon: this volunteer is helping to keep grassroots cycling alive

As a mainstay of Barnesbury CC, Sharon Dyson epitomises the commitment and enthusiasm that grassroots racing depends on

Local hero 2023 Sharon Dyson
(Image credit: Chris Auld)

Sharon Dyson was awarded the title Cycling Weekly's 2023 Local Hero, in recognition of the work she puts in to keep grassroots racing alive

Given recent news about the uncertainty surrounding the Tour of Britain, it’s timely to hear how the country’s marquee race can always attract new and passionate fans into the sport. Back in 2015, little more than two years after taking early retirement following 30 years in the fire service, Sharon Dyson began to accompany her late father, Jack, to the weekly time trial run by their local club, Barnesbury CC. A keen bird photographer, he’d heard that the 2015 Tour of Britain featured a stage finishing in Blyth, just north of Newcastle, and bought a new camera for the occasion. 

“He wanted to have a bit of practice with cyclists so he went down to the local time trial on a Wednesday night to take some photographs,” recalls Dyson. “I went down to watch and I thought, ‘This is quite good, really interesting.’ He told me they were always looking for marshals and I thought I might as well be standing on a corner if I was there, so I did. A week or so later someone said, ‘They’re always looking for timekeepers,’ and that was more my bag. I started training to become a timekeeper.” 

Over the subsequent eight seasons, Dyson’s journey into cycling has continued and she’s now one of the mainstays of road cycling in the north-east of England. She’s also been involved in event organisation, writes race reports and provides much- needed administrative support to fellow event organisers. 

She’s got more hats than a milliner’s shop. Among her many roles, Dyson is the secretary of Barnesbury CC, the events secretary of the North- East district and, on the back of these commitments, received dozens of nominations for the local hero award. 

“Sharon works tirelessly to support the cycling scene in the North-East, dedicating significant time and energy, and doing everything with enviable enthusiasm. In addition to supporting the arrangement of events and the work of various committees, she can be found on the start or finish line of TTs, hill- climbs and races almost every weekend working as a timekeeper. All of this is done with a genuine passion for the sport and care for those within it,” said one nominator, their words chiming with those of many, many others.

2023 Local Hero Sharon Dyson

(Image credit: Chris Auld)

Infectious enthusiasm

Words of praise...

“Sharon is Mrs Cycling. If there’s a cycling event on in the North-East, she’s there. Three-four times a week timing, regional committee member, event organiser. Organised the National 10 this year and the feedback was that it was the best-run event competitors had ever been to."

“Basically runs the North-East cycling scene! Her effort and commitment is unwavering!”

“Sharon has been the heart of my local TT race calendar for years. There wouldn’t be any racing in my district without Sharon, simple as that!”

One thing that’s common to those recommendations is Dyson’s absolute enthusiasm for the sport. “I think my enthusiasm perhaps rubs off on people,” she modestly suggests. She admits that she’s never been sporty but has always been into sport. “In a previous life I used to score at cricket and I was a statistician for an ice hockey team for lots of years,” she explains. 

Having caught the cycling bug, Dyson set about learning all she could about the sport. “I think during the course of 2016 and 2017, I went to every single event I could, even if it meant travelling. Even when we were on holiday, I would search out a time trial.”

After becoming an accredited marshal, she would often go to two events in a day, timekeeping at a time trial in the morning, marshalling a road race in the afternoon. The amount of behind-the-scenes work she took on increased too. 

“I’d like to think that I’m organised and can organise other people,” Dyson says. “I love it when a when a plan comes together and events run well.” 

She admits that she has particular affection for the hill-climb season and has been part of the timekeeping team at the National Championships in the past two seasons. 

“I kind of muscle my way in by getting in touch with the organisers, telling them that I am a CTT timekeeper and would be coming to their event to spectate regardless should they find that someone drops out,” she says. 

This year, Dyson took on her biggest challenge as organiser of the National 10-mile Championships. She confesses she “did reach the burn-out stage a little bit” and fell ill with Covid soon after. She insists it was worth it, but did reveal she’ll be cutting down her commitments a touch next year. 

“I’ll do all the administration and organisation, I’ll just not do as many events,” she said. Rewarding graft There is little doubt about the high regard in which she is held by the cycling community she is so committed to. “I do love it,” Dyson affirms, before telling us about the fairytale ending to the National 10. Victory went to Josh Charlton, whose family she knows well. 

“The day after, Josh called into my home with the biggest bunch of flowers as a thank you,” she explains. 

“I entered him into the event late when I was processing a few late entries and had learned that Josh wouldn’t be away training on the track. I kind of bullied him into the event by putting in an entry. I think he's forgiven me!"

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