It’s a travesty that this was only the third Paris-Roubaix for the women.
But let’s leave that there and get on to the good stuff.
What a race. What a winner. Those of us who watched the race unfold (and more shame on the broadcasters for not showing the entire race) will not be forgetting this one anytime soon.
It unravelled early on for the favourites in the way only P-R can. Marianne Vos found herself detached early on thanks to a puncture and a crash yet to her immense credit she never threw the towel in. Instead she dug in, she fought back, and finished tenth.
But this was a day that belonged to those normally – no, forever – overshadowed by the stars. To see Alison Jackson’s reaction as she crossed the line told you that this was unexpected to a massive degree. Hands in the air not in the usual pose of the victor, this was a posture of shock. Her mouth hung open for a good five seconds, almost as if she’d forgotten to breathe. There was no gasping for breath, no flop onto the ground, instead she wandered around with a look of incredulity on her face.
Lizzy Banks rushed to hug her, shouting ‘You fucking did it!’
And how she did it.
As the chasers got ever closer on the leaders in the closing kilometers, I was impressed and a little dismatyed by how much work the woman in pink was doing at the front. Surely she’d be spent soon? Rather than doing the usual jockeying for position and messing about as we often see in men’s racing, Jackson plus three or four others decided they would gamble between a chance on the podium or possibly last of the break but still a top ten, rather then let this impossible dream – becoming ever so slightly less possible with each pedal stroke as the line neared – slip away.
There again was the woman in pink. Alison Jackson. At the front. Saving nothing. Prepared to fail in order to succeed. You could see that she was forcing every fibre of her being to get whatever she could from her body. Riding with her heart on her sleeve.
Into the famous old velodrome they thundered. Sat in second wheel, she came over the top, seated and strong, she then raised herself up, one last effort, one last push, every sinew strained… and she’d done it.
Alison Jackson of Canada. Wine the damn race. Never mentioned as a potential winner. She’d just provided us with one of the greatest stories in the entire history of the great old race.
As she was interviewed a tear ran down her cheek. It was a tear for what she’d just done.
A tear for Paris-Roubaix.
A tear for this glorious sport.
Images courtesy of https://efprocycling.com/