Alison Jackson going full circle with return to EF Education-TIBCO-SVB

The Canadian wants to help the team succeed in the classics after returning to roster after three years away.

Photo: EF Education-TIBCO-SVB

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When Alison Jackson last rode for TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank in 2019 she was a relatively green pro, but three years later she returns to the squad as an experienced WorldTour racer.

Jackson joined the team, which is now called EF Education-TIBCO-SVB, for the first time in 2018, having spent two seasons with the Twenty16 p/b Sho-Air squad and a year with the Italian Bepink-Cogeas team.

Despite three years of pro racing, she still had a lot to learn, and taking the step into the WorldTour with Sunweb in 2020 was an opportunity to do that. She has since spent another two years with Liv Racing and she’s looking forward to bringing that back to EF Education.

“It’s been really good for me to be on European-based teams,” Jackson told VeloNews in a recent video call. “They have a way of doing things and are so rooted in tradition and being in Europe for so long. Seeing how they run and how they talk about races, I learned a ton. I really hope to bring a lot of that experience and knowledge back over to TIBCO.

“I needed to go on these big teams, where I was the person that needed to learn a lot from a lot of these other girls who had more experience than me. And now, to be able to bring that back to the team, I think it’s going be super valuable to the team and to the younger riders and to some of the North American riders.”

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Jackson isn’t the only one that has changed over the past three seasons — the team has also gone under a massive transformation. Across its 16 years of existence, the squad — which is run by Linda Jackson — has largely run on a shoestring budget with promising riders getting their start in pro racing before moving onto bigger teams with heftier budgets.

Things began to change last year with sponsors investing more money into the team to help it join the WorldTour. It has allowed the team to start bringing back past stars such as Jackson as well as retaining some of its newer stars like Veronica Ewers.

So, not only does Jackson have more to offer the team than she did three years ago, it has more to give her in return and she believes that the team can continue to grow.

“When I left the program, it was lacking resources and some of the top-level teammates that I needed in order for me to be successful, too. Coming back all of those gaps have been filled in,” she said. “Ever since I left I always kept watching the team because I love Linda Jackson and her ambition for women in sport and how passionate she is about it. Also, with the team being American-based, it is a little bit more like home.

“An American team in a Eurocentric sport is a bit of an underdog and so just watching how they have attracted great riders and then put together a great program is really great. Watching it grow and grow and then having conversations of the ambition that they have really to be a top-five team, it’s exciting to get to be a part of it in the early stages and really help it build to that goal.”

Taking on the classics

While the EF Education-TIBCO-SVB roster has grown in strength over the past season, Jackson believes she will fill a gap in the team’s skillset. Jackson loves the hustle and bustle of the cobbled classics, an area where the team hit the mark in 2022 with Letizia Borghesi its strongest performer with a top-10 finish at Nokere Koerse.

“The team was not so impressive in the classics at all, but when they got to the stage races and the climbing races, then they really excelled,” Jackson told VeloNews. “That’s really exciting for me that they have riders that can do things I can’t do because I really believe that they can win. When you get to be a teammate, that gets to be a difference maker for someone who you really believe can win, you can put more into it.

“I’m really excited to be able to play that teammate role for a leader I believe can win. What they really had a gap for was a leader in the classics races, and that’s my specialty. I am a winner I want to win, so I really love that there’s a space there where I can lead the team, where I can get my chances and then pay back my teammates in other races.”

After scoring her first big WorldTour win at the Simac Ladies Tour in 2021, Jackson went into last season with high hopes. However, illness and injury saw her put on the backfoot throughout much of the season.

Before the spring ended, she’d torn her ACL, had COVID-19, and gotten a concussion. She also got sick before Canadian nationals.

There were some good moments, though, like 13th at Paris-Roubaix, the points jersey at the Tour of Scandinavia, and a top-20 finish at the worlds, and Jackson’s just hoping for a clean run at her big targets this season.

“Being healthy gets you absolutely, into the place where you can play the game for the final, and then it’s really about teamwork,” she said. “I’ve tried a lot of years to win these races on my own, and in our sport where the field is getting deeper and deeper, you have to have top teammates to support a leader to make a race happen. You can’t do it on your own anymore, like in the old days.

“I’m really just looking forward to playing into the tactics, studying the courses with my teammates to create a really well-thought-out plan. That becomes second nature to how we’re going to manage the race load. The training and stuff will take care of itself when you have good habits and staying healthy.”

Jackson’s ambitions aren’t just restricted to the classics — she has her eyes set on a ride at the Tour de France Femmes. She also believes that she has a GC win in her after taking eighth overall at the Simac Ladies Tour in September.

“The Women’s Tour is always a fun race and really dynamic, and it has a lot of different sorts of terrain and stuff. I’d like to win a GC race and that race doesn’t have a time trial, so that can favor me a little bit,” she said. “I would love to see what the courses are when they do release them. I’m also really excited about racing the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, which I didn’t get to do the inaugural edition. I’m really looking forward to get to race in France and be a part of that event.”

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