It’s been 33 years since Steve Bauer narrowly missed out on the victory at Paris-Roubaix by just one centimetre, finishing a hard-fought second place in a breakaway sprint behind winner Eddy Planckaert in the Roubaix Velodrome in 1990.
No Canadian has stood on the podium since Bauer’s achievement until Saturday, when Alison Jackson added her name to the history books and cemented herself as the first Canadian, and North American, rider to win the Hell of the North in the Paris-Roubaix Femmes 2023.
“It’s a fantastic achievement for Alison and Canadian cycling. Congratulations to her for such a historic victory as the first Canadian man or woman to win Paris-Roubaix,” Bauer told Cyclingnews.
Bauer is currently a sports director at Israel-Premier Tech men’s team and will guide a seven-man team, including Canadians Guillaume Boivin and Derek Gee, who will support the team’s leader Sep Vanmarcke in the men’s 256.6km race on Sunday.
Jackson has not made the podium of a cobbled Classic before her victory in Paris-Roubaix. Still, she has risen to become one of the top riders in the peloton, having won a stage at the Ladies Tour and double national titles in the road race and time trial in 2021. She also represented Canada at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
She came into this season targeting the Spring Classics with specific aspirations to do well Paris-Roubaix.
It couldn’t have started better for her as she formed part of an early breakaway, which went inside the first 15km outside the start in Denain.
Many thought that a move that early stood little chance of staying away, especially against the heavy-hitting teams like SD Worx that have dominated the Spring Classics and Trek-Segafredo that had won the two previous editions.
But in the previous two editions of the women’s race, Lizzie Deignan attacked ahead of Hornaing à Wandignies and soloed for over 80 kilometres to win the inaugural edition of the women’s race in 2021 and Elisa Longo Borghini attached over the Templeuve cobblestone sector with 34 kilometres to go and claimed victory at the second edition last year.
In contrast, Jackson was the most decorated rider of an 18-woman break, and together they gained six minutes on the peloton by the time they hit the first cobbled sector at Hornaing with 82km left to run.
Having watched the women’s race unfold during the live broadcast from the men’s team hotel, Bauer said he was impressed by Jackson’s strength and determination as she rallied to keep the breakaway working together in the closing kilometres toward the Roubaix Velodrome.
“The way she rode in the final was really impressive. She pushed that breakaway to the end and was working the whole time and still beat everyone in the sprint. She proved she was the strongest and it was fantastic to see,” Bauer told Cyclingnews.
A resurgent chase group came within 10 seconds of the break in the final kilometres, but Jackson and what was left of the original move held on to contest the win in Roubaix.
It was remarkable that Jackson had anything left for the sprint, but she found an opening in the last few hundred metres and crossed the line to take the win, making history as the first Canadian to hoist up the cobblestone trophy above her head on the podium as the winner of the Hell of the North.