Every Superhero Has an Origin Story
Posted by Mac Potter on November 16, 2023
Every great superhero has an origin story. Canada’s cobbled-crusader, Alison “Action” Jackson, joined us at Rouleur Classic this past weekend and we had a chance to sit down and chat about her story.
Alison grew up on a farm just outside of Vermillion, Alberta, a small town known for baseball and softball in the summer and commitment to hockey in the winter. Alison was always active growing up but was not a cycling prodigy quite yet.
“I played all sports, none of them were cycling. With endurance sports you don’t have to be so specific. When you try all different sports you become a holistic athlete.”
Alison didn’t get into cycling until she moved away from the farm to attend university in BC, where her endurance career began somewhat by chance.
“I was running, biking, and swimming, but for totally different reasons. I was swimming because I wanted to learn how to surf so I could go to the ocean and surf all day. There was a bike that was left at my parents place that I would ride into town every so often. I was running because I was going to do a big hike in the Himalayans.”
It wasn’t until someone asked her if she was training for a triathlon that she looked into it, signed up for a few races throughout Alberta and BC, and did quite well. Through the multi-disciplinary sport she was eventually encouraged to take aim at bike racing specifically.
“When I was doing triathlon I rode with a club (Phoenix Velo) and the cyclists they kept saying “you should try to race! you should try to race!” so I entered a few local races, and did quite well. I was able to guest ride for a local club at BC Superweek that year and won some of the races, leading to an offer to ride for an American team. I had just graduated from university and I wanted to be a pro athlete, so I just went all in… I was given more opportunities to win and here we are!”
Cycling isn’t a sport where the strongest always wins, there are tactics and strategy involved. It’s 40-50km/hour chess, where the board is always changing.
“Race strategy was something that I was always good at. You can talk about bike racing with a lot of people, you can watch a lot of bike racing and then also just trying things in races to win in different ways.”
Alison also had a couple of mentors that she looked up to which helped her with her success.
“Alison Testroete was a pro rider from the Abbotsford area who mentored me a lot and coached me for a little bit. Svein Tuft, a Canadian cycling legend, he did things in a very interesting way, being very rooted in nature and outdoor activities. They were people to bounce ideas off of and see where they went and the pathway that they took from Canada to European bike racing.”
Bike racing isn’t all about success, you can learn some great lessons when things don’t workout. Alison is known for her early breakaway move that took her to the finish line in Roubaix, but it was an important lesson that she learned at the Tour de White Rock that brought her to that moment.
“I remember going on a 40km solo in Tour de White Rock and getting caught just in the last lap. You have to be bold in order to win and you have to try different things.”
Along with tactics, strength is what helps your move stick or what brings you across the line first in a final sprint. Power is such an essential tool for training and Alison was an early adopter.
“I started training with power right from the beginning. With running I was training with heart rate but power is such an objective tool and it measures consistently throughout the ride. Heart rate you can have a little bit of cardiac drift, or as you get fitter your heart rate zones change. A power meter is the most objective tool that we can use for training.”
Alison leaned on her coach to learn all about training with power.
“I had a coach and they suggested a power meter. If you don’t have a coach though, you can always self test - what was my average for the ride? How can I make that average better? Where were my peaks? Where were my valleys? Can you smooth that out? Or what can I hold for five minutes? You can test this yourself. Having a training program will get you faster and will give you a better understanding of how to use the power meter.”
Although Alison has been a professional rider for 8 years, winning Paris-Roubaix confirmed that she was on the right path and validated her career choice of becoming a professional cyclist.
“Every race we enter the goal is to win, but being in this sport for 8 years I hadn’t won a big race or monument. This is being able to check the box that we made it happen. Not a lot of people get to win a big race like this. All of the feelings of validation and belonging, that I did all of the right things in this race. By riding boldly, by making good choices, it confirmed that I’m a good athlete in this sport and I’m meant to be here.”
Just a few weeks prior to Rouleur, Alison was back at her family’s bison farm, taking out the garbage and helping with farm chores. Although it was her off-season, just like all superheroes, the work never stops. It’s that drive and hard working mentality that has kept Alison focused, determined, and humble. It’s made her into the athlete that she is today. After meeting with dozens of fans Alison left our booth and just like every great superhero she signed off with a good ol’ “Go Canada!”