Home Blog Alison Jackson’s Paris Roubaix Femmes Triumph

Alison Jackson’s Paris Roubaix Femmes Triumph

Posted by Andrew Davidson on April 16, 2023

Gritty. Unrelenting. Iconic. Beloved. Historic. A few of the superlatives that one could use in an attempt to describe the 2023 edition of the Paris-Roubaix Femmes and its winner, Canadian Alison Jackson, of the EF-Education-Tibco-SVB team. Almost as rare as claiming one of cycling’s “monuments’’ is a winner receiving unanimous praise and acknowledgement from spectators as the most deserving rider on the day, a feat that Jackson pulled off. If her well-documented series of brilliant and hilarious cycling-themed Tik-Tok dances hadn’t already made you a loyal fan of the veteran racer, then surely her masterclass on the roads to Roubaix would have. Much like a choreographed dance routine, she successfully executed her moves over the span of 145km and almost 4 hours of racing. The stage took the form of the narrow, windswept roads that zigged and zagged through the French countryside, some fast and smooth and others cobbled and treacherous. As the first North American and Canadian, male or female, to cross the Roubaix finish line with arms aloft, it was a performance for the ages.

Not dissimilar to baseball legend, Babe Ruth, pointing out his home runs before making good on them, or more recently and in a cycling context, Tadej Pogacar, revealing his strategy to win the Tour of Flanders, before executing it to perfection, Jackson likewise called her winning move for Roubaix. In the week leading up to the third edition of the women’s race, she expressed the goal of making it into the day’s early breakaway, in an attempt to pre-empt moves from the favourites and stay ahead of the surges and crashes that often plague the chasing peloton. By the time the live television coverage began, inside the final 80km, Alison could be seen doing turns as part of an 18-rider breakaway that had gained over a five-minute lead on the peloton. Not only would this move to prove effective in avoiding major crashes later in the race, but also allowed for a steadier effort and power output - as the group shared the workload leading up to the final hour of racing. As the kilometres ticked by and the cobbled sectors were checked off, it became more and more evident that the break had a real chance of going the distance, a scenario every rider to make an early breakaway dreams of, but which rarely comes to fruition. Despite the shrinking gap to the chasing group, which contained all the heavy hitters, including defending champion Elisa Longo Borghini and pre-race favourite Lotte Kopecky, Jackson and her reduced company were still rolling steady and with one exception, avoiding the pile-ups that were wreaking havoc on those behind.

The quote, “leadership is an action, not a position” couldn’t be more apt for one of EF-Education-Tibco-SVB’s captains, whose nickname and Instagram handle Alison “Action” Jackson would attest to. Inside 30km of what would be the biggest Paris-Roubaix result for likely all involved in the front group, a noticeable sense of hesitation began to take hold, as the fear of being caught from behind began to seep into the minds of the escapees, translating to fewer riders committing to strong pulls on the front. Jackson was having none of it. The final 45-minutes of leading into Roubaix was a complete demonstration of inspired determination, as Jackson detonated the group with a searing attack before proceeding to drive the group with her legs and lungs, as she was seen rallying the remaining troops to believe they could make it and to help fight the good fight. Perhaps the most heart-wrenching moment from a race that had no shortage of them, was witnessing the stacked group of chasers coming within 9sec and one hard acceleration away from reeling in the daylong leaders, only to see the gap once again balloon as Jackson and a select few others refused to let the dream die. That’s not how the script of professional WorldTour racing is supposed to play out. The cycling gods are known for the cruelty with which they deny the hopeful escapees inside the closing kilometres, with cold-hearted regularity. Yet, if anyone could put a creative and dramatic spin on an old song and dance, surely it was the beloved 34-year-old cycling and social media entertainer.

With a sense of awe and trepidation, Canadians in living rooms everywhere watched as Alison and Marta Lach burned valuable matches, while taking responsibility for their right to fight for victory. Their never-say-die effort remarkably kept the odds-on favourites at bay, as they pulled into the famed Roubaix velodrome for the most suspenseful lap-and-a-half of racing one could fathom. In what was a perfect encapsulation of her day’s work Jackson positioned herself tactfully through the 750m approach to the line, always giving herself an out, avoiding the crash of SD Works rider Femke Markus and biding her time for one last explosive effort. With the patience and cool-handed savvy of a seasoned veteran, she rode the wheels into the final corner before catapulting herself around the outside of Marrion Borras and down the final straightaway, convincingly holding off the remaining five sprinters, to claim a historic win!

The look of disbelief written on Jackson’s face as she raised her arms in triumph was a thing of beauty… of someone who dared to dream big, who took the risk and did the work to have a chance, and for it to all come together in one unbelievable moment. The on-brand celebratory dance that ensued as soon as she unclipped from her winning machine, still paired with a look of “I just did that!?” was equally perfect. When asked by a French interviewer whilst cradling her winners’ cobblestone, “Have you ever dreamed it before, to hold it?” Jackson replied with watery eyes, “Every time we come here, to Roubaix, in the velodrome, I dream of winning. We take a lap, and I dream of what I would do when I cross the finish line. Bike racing is hard, there are more times that we’ll lose than we win and until now it’s always just been a dream that I just keep replaying in my mind and today, to make that come true, is unreal.” For Jackson, who grew up in rural Vermilion, Alberta, and once picked up stones from the field as one of her childhood farm tasks, it was perhaps destiny to one day pick up the iconic 12kg cobblestone awarded to the winner of Paris-Roubaix.

Keep dancing on those pedals, and dance floors Alison Jackson, we’re all here for it!

Canadian cycling fans and Canadian cycling great, Stever Bauer, have long had a bittersweet relationship with the “Hell of the North”, as Bauer was once the agonizingly close runner-up, beaten to the line by a mere centimetre on the same velodrome in 1990. The satisfaction of EF’s Alison Jackson pulling off an emphatic sprint win after a day-long display of grit and guts helps ease some of that pain, and will surely inspire future generations of girls and boys to dream of French cobblestones. For the team’s Director, Linda Jackson, it’s a culmination of two decades of hard work and dedication, as EF-Education-Tibco-SVB is the current iteration of the longest continuously running women’s pro cycling team in the world. When asked how she and the team would celebrate the biggest win of their collective history, Jackson didn’t skip a beat, “We’re going to have a dance party!”.

Alison and her coach, Adam Pulford, were kind enough to share some power data with us from her big day out, for those who want a peak at what it took to win the third edition of the Paris-Roubaix Femmes. With a Normalized Power of 242W for the duration of the race and a finishing 10sec effort of 589W, it was a steady, all-day grind, topped off with a sprint on fatigued legs, as Roubaix always is. Jackson made use of her strength at key moments, first to join the initial breakaway, to later attack and splinter it, then do repeated pulls on the front to keep the chasers at bay, and finally to sprint for the win!

Alison Jackson’s Paris-Roubaix power data

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