For Ellensburg’s Jordan Jackson, crossing the finish line at the Roubaix Velodrome in the Paris-Roubaix cycling road race on April 1 was a “pinch me” moment.
Even so, he didn’t raise his arms in celebration. Exultant but exhausted, he was simply too tired.
After all, many who follow cycling consider Paris-Roubaix (known as “Hell of the North”) as the toughest single day race on the European calendar. Begun in 1896, with some years off for two World Wars, the race has a 110 year history. Over that time, more than one rider has ended up bloodied, more than one bike bent.
The 23-year-old Jackson, one of 900 entries in the amateur division, had just ridden 93.2 miles in six hours across the French countryside in a body and ego-challenging race known for long stretches of punishing cobblestone capable of tossing riders out of the saddle and off of their bikes. It happened to Jackson.
Intent on avoiding a cobblestone landing, he aimed for a grassy spot on the side of the road. It was poison ivy. Call that one down moment in the realization of a dream – a dream that almost didn’t happen.
Flash back to mid-April. Jackson, a CWU grad who grew up in Issaquah and works at the Recycle Shop, needed a medical release. He figured a quick call to his west side doctor would do it. He was wrong. To complicate things, time was running out. He and his girlfriend were headed to Spain in mid-April. He’d have just one day between their return and the day he departed for France.Just four days before he and his girlfriend were scheduled to leave for Spain, Jackson made a desperate call to KVH Family Medicine – Ellensburg, one of six clinics operated by Kittitas Valley Healthcare. His heart sank when he heard the words “the earliest we can get you in is. . .” then soared when the woman at the other end of the call continued “. . . tomorrow.”
In late March, freshly back from Spain and armed with a medical release from Physician Assistant David Wood, a relieved Jackson packed up his $5,500 Specialized Roubaix Pro, a bike made specially for the Paris-Roubaix, and headed off to France.
On race day, his alarm didn’t go off and he woke late. With just 15 minutes to get to the starting line, he risked a speeding ticket, frantically pulling on race gear as he drove. By the time he arrived at the starting line, the last riders were 300 meters ahead prompting an unplanned adrenaline-fueled sprint to catch them. In the miles that followed, he would make friends and forge memories and, in an exhilarating finish, sprint into the historic Roubaix Velodrome to the roar of a crowd, 64th out of 105 in his class.
“The Velodrome is hallowed ground,” Jackson says reverently. “The last few meters are played out before a stadium-like crowd. It’s beautiful. It takes blood, sweat, tears, pure determination and strength to triumph at Roubaix. “Roubaix isn’t won on race day. It’s earned on race day.”
As for the clinic’s role, “It was clinic come through, or no Paris-Roubaix for me,” says Jackson, who would have been watching from the sidelines or following the race from home. “After all the preparation, it would have been devastating. I can’t say enough about how good they were at getting me in and taking care of my needs.”