If Alison “Ali Action” Jackson weren’t a bike racer, she’d be a chiropractor, a different type of professional athlete or maybe, a hip-hop dancer or ballerina. And if you’re one of the thousands of fans that follow her on social media, you know she’s got the moves.
While she may be best known for being the peloton jokester with her comedic Instagram and TikTok reels and sunny outlook, Jackson is also a well-respected and liked veteran of the women’s field.
“Ali is very funny and fun-loving and has a lot of positive energy but she’s also a very tenacious rider, never quits, always fights hard, and is a consummate teammate,” commented fellow North American Alison Tetrick, who raced against Jackson for several years.
“It appeared to me that she was the one working the hardest in the break [of the Paris-Roubaix race today] with the most dedication to the overall success. It took a lot of grit and fight, but I think she’s made a career out of that. [Jackson] is somebody that works really hard and has sacrificed a lot to be where she’s at. Today’s huge result is, I think, so well-deserved and a long time coming.”
Jackson, a 34-year-old from Alberta, Canada, was raised on a bison farm where she spent many hours roaming outside and putting her Energizer Bunny energy toward the many farm chores needing to be done.
Once in school, sports and dance became the outlet for all that energy, and at the end of High School, Jackson earned herself a running scholarship to attend Trinity Western University. Here, while working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Human Kinetics, Jackson competed as a runner and, once introduced to the bike at the age of 19, in triathlon.
With graduation looming, Jackson dreamt of only one career: that of a professional athlete, be it in running, cycling or triathlon. Hoping to one day represent Canada at the Olympic Games, she narrowed down her focus to either cycling or running —her strongest disciplines— and entered into some cycling races.
Her performances impressed and in 2015, she signed her first professional contract with the American Twenty16 p/b Sho-Air team. That same year, she made the Canadian selection for the UCI Road World Championships for the first time and won her first national title by winning the national criterium championship race. In 2021, she backed up that criterium title with victories in the Canadian national road race and time trial as well, meaning that she’s worn the red maple leaf jersey in all three road disciplines. A true all-rounder.
Team Twenty16 p/b Sho-Air was Jackson’s stepping stone to European racing and over the years, she’s gained a lot of international and WorldTour experience as part of BePink-Cogeas, Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank, Team Sunweb, Liv Racing and now, back with Linda Jackson’s EF Education-Tibco-SVB.
Team owner Linda Jackson, a fellow Canadian of no relation, is known as the original “Action Jackson” and was thrilled to bring Alison Jackson back to her program.
“We are delighted to welcome Alison back to the team. We’ve both grown a lot in the last few years and I believe we both have a lot to give to each other. AJ is incredibly strong and reads races well, especially the Classics. She has been able to get herself to where she needs to be at the right time, and our deeper roster should lead to more results in these races…I’m looking forward to working with Action Jackson #2 again!” she said.
In addition to her three national titles, Jackson’s palmarès includes stage wins at the Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l’Ardèche, the Trophée d’Or Féminin and Women’s Tour of Scotland as well as podium finishes at Drentse Acht and Tour of Guangxi and point classification wins at Tour of the Gila, Ladies Tour of Norway and Tour of Scandinavia.
In 2021, she also made her Olympic dream come true when she represented Canada at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, where she finished in 32nd place in the women’s road race.
In her videos, Jackson may come off as someone who thinks of bike racing as just fun and games. But don’t be fooled by her bubbly personality, passion for making others laugh and constant dancing. A serious competitor is hiding behind all that.
“She’s a massive character. She’s famous on TikTok with her dancing and everything, but the thing is, there’s the dancing AJ and then there’s the professional athlete, and she’s really, really professional in training. She does everything correctly,” her team’s Sports Director, Tim Harris told CW.
When the starting pistol sounds, Jackson just wants to win. And EF Education-TIBCO-SVB was happy to give her that opportunity, specifically signing Jackson to bolster its Spring campaign.
“I’m a Classics rider. Any of the Spring Classics are on the top of my goal list. I love being deep in the mix. There’s deep history in those races — they’re hard races. The one-day race where it just becomes this epic story from the start to the finish, whether there’s bad weather or obstacles, and you have to be smart with how you play your cards,” she said in the team signing announcement.
And boy, did she play her cards right today!
After a somewhat frantic start to the third edition of the Paris-Roubaix Femmes, Jackson was part of an early escape group of around 18 riders. The peloton seemed unconcerned with the early breakaway and let the gap grow to more than six minutes, thinking they’d have time to reel them in as the race progressed.
But this was Paris-Roubaix. The demanding cobbles, crashes, mechanicals and failed tactics took their toll, and suddenly the peloton found themselves with 25 kilometres to go and running out of time.
Jackson and her now six remaining breakaway companions pressed on with the Canadian egging them on and doing the lion’s share of the work. Even when the chasers were closing in, storming toward them just 10-12 seconds behind, Jackson never gave up hope.
“In the final there, the group was coming back to us and there were only four of us, maybe, in that group of seven that actually wanted to ride. But either you don’t ride and you lose the race or you ride hard and you maybe have a chance,” a teary Jackson said post-race.
Jackson was seen waving her hands, begging her companions to believe. And when they turned into the iconic velodrome, it was all over for the peloton. The breakaways had done the impossible. The race for the cobblestone trophy was theirs.
Marta Lach (CERATIZIT-WNT Pro Cycling) led the group into the velodrome for the final lap, Femke Markus (SD Worx) crashed out but the other stayed upright and Jackson found herself in the ideal second position as they entered the final bend. She accelerated, came around Marion Borras (St Michel-Mavic-Auber93) and finished the task she had set for herself.
“I just trusted myself and in my passion and heart for just wanting to get in the bike race…I saw [the finish line] coming and I had clear space and it’s a dream come true. To cross the finish line first of any bike is a special type of fun. And this one tops that,” Jackson said.
Winning Paris-Roubaix Femmes is Jackson’s biggest career win to date. In doing so, she’s also the first North American to hoist the cobblestone trophy on the top step of the iconic podium.
“I grew up on a farm in rural Alberta, and one of the things I had to do as a kid was go into the field and pick rocks by hand,” she said in the post-race conference. “Lo and behold, me, and I’m picking another rock, and I’m taking it home.”
In true Ali Jackson fashion, she danced after she crossed the finish line, and I, for one, cannot wait to see her race-celebrating reel on instagram.