By Martin Cleary
If you were to chat with women’s cycling team founder-owner Linda Jackson of Ottawa and rising young pro cyclist Derek Gee of Osgoode, ON., they would have two amazing, but totally contrasting stories to share about Sunday’s two Paris-Roubaix races in northern France.
Two decades ago, Jackson invested $5,000 (U.S.) into a women’s cycling team. Every so often, the team name would change, depending on the sponsors. On Sunday, EF Education-TIBCO-SVB and its star rider Alison Jackson (no relation to Linda) were the talk of the third Paris-Roubaix Femmes race.
Alison Jackson scored the biggest victory of her cycling career as the Vermilion, AB., rider outsprinted six other riders to capture the top prize, which included, fittingly, a mounted cobblestone. The Paris-Roubaix is noted for its cobblestone stretches of road – 18 cobblestone sections over 145.5 kilometres for women and 29 for men over 256.5 kilometres.
Gee, who represented Canada at the Tokyo Summer Olympics in the men’s track team pursuit before joining Israel-Premier Tech, was in the lead of a four-man breakaway group on the five-star Arenberg Forest cobblestone section before he suddenly came to a wobbly stop with a front-tire puncture.
The men’s race has been nicknamed The Hell of the North or A Sunday in Hell because of the rough terrain and cobblestone paths, which have forced bike companies to develop specialized frames, wheels and tires.
While Gee waited five minutes to receive a replacement wheel from his team, he could only stand and watch all his peers pass by on their way to the eventual finish line inside the Andre Petrieux Velodrome in Roubaix.
The official results showed Gee finished 135th and last in the men’s field, which had 175 riders at the start line. His finishing time of five hours, 54 minutes, 25 seconds was 25:44 behind winner Mathieu Van Der Poel of The Netherlands.
When Alison Jackson crossed the velodrome finish line and raised her arms in celebration, Linda Jackson felt a similar kind of joy.
“Our sponsors believed in us, they believed in our mission, and it’s a really good feeling to finally give them this major win,” Linda Jackson told Canadian Cycling Magazine.
Alison Jackson completed the challenging course in 3:42:56 and held off six other riders in the blanket finish inside the noisy velodrome.
“I always say I love bike racing. I love the chaos. I think it’s so fun. But there’s a special type of fun when you win,” Jackson, 34, said at a press conference.
“As a Canadian, to win this race is pretty monumental for cycling in Canada. For me, (it’s) my biggest win of my career. Yeah, a dream come true.”
Once the top riders entered the velodrome, Linda Jackson could see Alison Jackson was in a solid position for a victory.
“I don’t think I have ever seen anyone work so hard to win. She believed in herself, she corralled the other riders in the break to work and she never, ever, ever gave up,” Linda Jackson told Canadian Cycling.
Linda Jackson, a former national champion and Olympian, added Alison Jackson’s win was a major achievement for the team.
“It was a hard-fought and well-earned victory for the team,” she continued. “I am especially thankful to our co-title partners, EF Education, TIBCO Software and Silicon Valley Bank for their support, dating back to 2005-2006 (TIBCO and SVB). They got us to where we are today.”
Meanwhile in his Paris-Roubaix debut, Gee felt the thrill of being a leader and then being dropped to the back of the pack within minutes. Despite a long wait for a new tire, he didn’t become one of the 40 riders to withdraw as he was determined to reach the finish.
“Probably one of the coolest moments of my life as the first guy onto the Arenberg Forest to maybe one of the worst moments of my life standing there watching everyone go past,” Gee was quoted in a story on the Israel-Premier Tech website.
Gee experienced mechanical troubles on the iconic sector, which was about 90 kilometres from the finish. He rode that long stretch of tough terrain solo because “there was no way I wasn’t finishing.”
“It was an amazing experience for sure,” Gee said. “I was jumping in a lot of moves, but at the end of the day, I think it’s a lot of luck that one of the ones I jumped across to struck and then I had this surreal moment of knowing ‘oh, I’m in the breakaway at Roubaix, that’s really, really cool.’
“The part (punctured tire) that was really frustrating was that I had good legs and I still felt good so I thought maybe I could at least find some guys and ride to the finish, but there was no one around so I rode solo. There was no way I was stopping. I knew I was going to make it, even not knowing if I would be in the time limit or not.”
The time limit to be an official finisher was 26:18. Gee’s time behind the winner was 25:44.
LOCAL HOCKEY ASSOCIATION SCORES BIG TO HELP PLAYERS IN NEED
The Gloucester Cumberland Girls’ Hockey Association has scored one of the biggest victories in its history.
The Ontario Women’s Hockey Association recently awarded the east-end association the Kruger Big Assist, which came with a $25,000 donation to subsidize player enrolment fees for children in need.
“Gloucester Cumberland has been chosen based on (its) efforts of removing barriers and making hockey more accessible through financial assistance, supporting the youth on their dreams and strengthening their diversity and inclusivity efforts within their community,” said the OWHA press release.
The association also is eligible for the Second Assist, a $50,000 grant to cultivate diversity, equity and inclusion in hockey. That announcement is scheduled to be made Thursday.
BARRACUDAS QUALIFY SWIMMER, COACH FOR WORLD JUNIORS
One athlete and one coach from the Nepean Kanata Barracudas Swim Club have been named to Swimming Canada’s team for the world junior swimming championships Sept. 4-9 in the Mediterranean resort city of Netanya, Israel.
Julie Brousseau, who competed in five senior finals and earned an additional junior medal at the recent Canadian swim trials, was selected to the team of 15 women and 11 men.
The six-member coaching staff includes Scott Faithfull, the Barracudas head coach and performance elite coach.
Brousseau is one of six swimmers returning to the team, after competing in the 2022 world junior championships in Lima, Peru.
TWO OTTAWA SLALOM PADDLERS ON CANADIAN SENIOR TEAM
Ottawa slalom paddlers Lois Betteridge and Maël Rivard have been named to the Canadian team for the 2023 World Cup and world championship season.
They are part of the seven-athlete national team, which was determined after selection races in Pau, France and La Seu d’Urgell, Spain. The season will be lengthy as it will stretch to early November with the Pan Am Games in Santiago, Chile.
Betteridge will compete in women’s kayak, canoe and kayak cross events, while Rivard will race in men’s kayak and kayak cross.
LAST, BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST
· Athletics Canada head coach Glenroy Gilbert of Ottawa watched his men’s relay team of Aaron Brown, Jerome Blake, Brendon Rodney and Andre De Grasse win the Florida Relays 4×100-metre race in a world-leading time of 37.80 seconds. The same team finished the 2022 season with a world championship gold medal in a year-end-leading clocking of 37.48.
· The Canadian ringette championships opened Monday in Regina with four Ottawa teams competing in three divisions – West Ottawa Wild (U16), Gloucester Cumberland Devils (U19) and the National Ringette League’s Nepean Ravens and Gatineau Fusion.
· The annual Panda football game between the Carleton University Ravens and the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees will be played Sunday, Oct. 1.
HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
HELP SHINE A LIGHT ON LOCAL SPORT! The Ottawa Sports Pages has proudly provided a voice for local sport for over 10 years, but we need your help to continue another 10 and beyond. Please donate to the Ottawa Sports Pages Fund today.