Alison Jackson’s career as a professional cyclist is still fresh, having first hit her professional stride in December, 2014. With a year in the pro racing saddle, the 26-year-old Jackson, born in Vermilion, Alta. and heading to Gatineau this week, comes to the racing scene with only a few years’ experience. She started training for triathlons at age 19. By 26, Jackson — “Action” Jackson to her friends — has certainly gapped any distance that exists between age and experience.
Her career as a professional cyclist, she recalls, dates back to December of 2014 — just over six months ago. “I ran collegiately for Trinity Western University and competed at the FISU World Cross County Championships in 2014,” she said, “while also training for triathlons winning the Sprint World Triathlon Championships in 2014.” What drove her deeper into the world of cycling, she said, was the praise of her athletic performances that highlighted her strengths on a bike — strengths she wasted no time in testing.
Finishing second at the first Delta criterium of 2014’s B.C. Superweek, Jackson maintained top-15 finishes and also won the Tour de White Rock Omnium. “After that,” she told Canadian Cycling Magazine, “I had some great Canadians help me get connected with Team Twenty16 and it’s been a blast ever since!”
Noting the inestimable benefits she gleaned through coaching and mentoring as part of the team — cyclists Alison Testroete and champion Mari Holden, the team’s current director, standing out as key leadership examples — Jackson, humbly, attributes her success to what she’s learned. “This partnership and the opportunity to be mentored by champions,” Jackson said, “have made the biggest impact on my fast rise into professional cycling and successes so far.” Preparing for the Gatineau road race this week on June 4, Jackson is finding ways to leverage that rich, comprehensive and immersive experience into concocting what, she hopes, will be a recipe for success.
“I think we are going to have a really competitive race,” Jackson foresees. The field of competition, too — not to mention the competition itself — sweetens that competitive pot for the young western Canadian rider. “The fact that Gatineau offers UCI points makes it a very attractive race,” she said, adding that the race’s position on the annual competition calendar adds to the event’s prestige. The Philadelphia Bicycle Classic happens not long after Gatineau, another World Cup event for women that will bring a European field to the competition. “The North American teams are riding strong” as well, she added. With the USA Pro Nationals and Winsten-Salem happening not far away, Jackson is almost eager for the full-course meal of competition that she and other riders can expect.
For Jackson, personally, what will make the competition a true winner strikes resonantly close to home. “Any of my best race experiences have been when my family has come out to watch,” Jackson said. “The shared joy of a good result with the people who support you the most makes for the best racing experience possible.” Her husband, a photographer, will be one of those on hand to watch her ignite the Gatineau pavement. “I’m excited that my photographer husband will be watching the races at Gatineau,” she said.
Jackson sees Gatineau not as the pinnacle of competition, but as the start of bigger, even more ambitious things. Still, noting that she wants to learn much, much more, she’s looking at it all as an opportunity to grow as a competitor — especially as a standard-bearer for women’s cycling. “I hope that I will get the chance to race in Europe later this summer to gain Europe race experience,” she said. “I am also really looking forward to my Canadian National Championships debut at Saint-Georges, QC. in late June! I want to make some ripples.”
After all, she said, Canadian women have been turning in strong performances at the North American pro race series, and Jackson is ready to count herself among them. “It is really exciting to see these women overcoming obstacles and tackling the great unknown,” Jackson said.
“If more individuals and companies would get behind and support these female athletes, we would see even bigger and better things!”