Alison Jackson made history in 2023 as the first Canadian, male or female, to win a Monument, her claim on the fabled cobblestone trophy at Paris-Roubaix last April defining her season and her career. In just a few days she will be back at work building toward a defence of the ‘Queen of the Cobbles’ title, racing at the new Challenge Mallorca for women.
The Canadian champion joined EF Education-Cannondale for a restart this spring, the Continental programme grabbing her talents when the WorldTour-level EF Education-TIBCO-SVB team folded at the end of last year. Despite a learning curve with a new team in her ninth season as a pro cyclist and big races on the horizon leading to the Paris Olympic Games, Jackson uses words “fun” and “happy” a lot to describe serious work.
“I love that the team allows me to be who I am and have a happy heart. A happy heart goes to make a happy life,” Jackson told Cyclingnews from Spain just before the start of 2024 racing.
“I felt that this team has been such a perfect fit for me. I think it’s because they really love personalities. It comes from EF, what they do with their company and storytelling. All the partners with us, too, love storytelling – Rapha, Wahoo, MucOff. To do things in a different way and still be serious about your sport and get great results, I love that.”
Jackson’s story which will be retold for a long time took place last April. She went from breakaway rider to sprint winner at Paris-Roubaix Femmes and danced her way into the hearts of many with social media celebration videos.
“For me, it was going to have a lot of meaning to win a Monument and also to write my name in the history book as the first Canadian, male or female, to have won any of the Monuments,” Jackson admitted. “You have to believe you can win, in order to even think that it could be possible. Cycling is fun. Racing is fun. But winning is a special type of fun.”
Following a training camp in Mallorca this month, Jackson and a contingency of EF Education-Cannondale riders will begin their UCI racing season at Challenge Mallorca Femenina, a three-day series of road races. The first race is the Felanitx-Colonia de Sant Jordi Trophy.
“I’ll get to jump in a couple of them, the Challenge Mallorca. And that’s kind of right in the middle of our team camp. I love that we’re doing that, bringing learning skills together, whether we can actually put them in a bike race or come back after and learn from it and take it into the next big races. For me, it will be the UAE Tour, which I haven’t done before. Add some wind in there, and that’s going to make for a fun bike race. Then from there, we get a couple of good pre-spring Classic starts, and then it’ll be Opening Weekend.”
Like last year, she’ll use a full schedule of 11 one-day races across eight weeks to build toward the Vuelta España Femenina, which is a multi-day objective for Jackson “to get stage racing back in my legs”. She has not competed in the Spanish race in two years. But for now, the one-day Classics were in focus.
“There are a little bit of different challenges, but [Brugge-] De Panne is quite a bit like Paris-Roubaix. Obviously, it’s a flat race, and it’ll be a select group. If it’s windy, it would be better for me to make that part of the challenge. I really would love to win that,” Jackson said.
“It has a bit of everything. It can have the wind, it has the Kemmelberg [half a kilometre averaging 9.2%] and those climbs around there are hard enough, and then that long run-in to the sprint finish. But we’ve seen that it’s been won in different ways.
“Of course, Flanders, that’s another one that can make your career. I would love to add that to my palmares.”
Last year Jackson scored the most UCI points of any rider on her EF Education-TIBCO-SVB squad, bolstered by the Paris-Roubaix victory. She also won her second Canadian national title in the road race and took two medals in the Pan-American Championships, silver in the road race and bronze in the time trial.
There are two young Canadians with her on the EF Education-Cannondale roster – Clara Emond, who moved from Arkea Pro Cycling, and 22-year-old Magdeleine Vallieres, who raced with Jackson at the TIBCO team. She’ll count on them in June at the Canadian Road Championships in St-Georges.
“There’s a lot of great female cyclists in Canada now. Yeah, I’m looking forward to doing more races with that team and coming out with a really big team result. It’s great to see more Canadians coming over to Europe and starting to take a stab at WorldTour racing. Always, Canadians are just so lovely,” said Jackson, Over her career has won four national road titles – the 2015 Criterium championship, 2021 time trial and road titles and another road championship in 2023.
“If I get to have two teammates there at Nationals so that we get to keep the jersey, whether it’s on my shoulders or in the family, is going to take a lot of pressure off. I am always really proud when I get to wear that maple leaf.”
Whether it is representing Canada or representing EF Education-Cannondale, Jackson has learned to keep work fun and simple.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also learned to pick fewer main goals. I think before when I first started, I just wanted to win everything and everything was painful,” Jackson reflected. “To win any one race would be absolutely special. To win the Olympic gold medal would mean so much to me and to my family, to my country. To win Paris-Roubaix again, to really claim the title as Queen of the Cobbles, would be absolutely unreal and such a delight. To win a stage at the Tour would also mean a lot, like that would be fun.
“And then always, to be national champion. So those are the big goals now.”