Alison Jane Sydor, OBC, cyclist (born 9 September 1966 in Edmonton, AB). Alison Sydor is considered one of Canada’s best cyclists and one of the best mountain bike cyclists ever. She won 17 World Cup medals in cross-country cycling, including four gold, and 13 World Championship medals, including three gold. After winning silver in the first Olympic mountain bike event in 1996, Sydor was named International Cyclist of the Year by Velo News and received the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as Canada’s female athlete of the year. She also competed in road racing; she won the National Road Championships four times and was the first Canadian woman to medal in an individual international road race. Sydor has been inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, the Canadian Cycling Hall of Fame and the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame.
Alison Sydor was born in Edmonton. Her father’s career in mining led to her growing up in Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Denver, Colorado; Calgary, Victoria and Vancouver. As a child, she showed a natural ability to ride a bicycle; she started riding at age two and never needed training wheels. She was also very active in sports growing up. She graduated from the University of Victoria with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry in 1989.
Sydor became involved in competitive cycling at age 20 while training for triathlons when she attended the University of Victoria. She started out in road cycling and quickly found success. She won gold medals in all three cycling disciplines (mountain bike, road, and cyclo-cross) at the 1987 Western Canada Games. By the end of the year, she had won silver at the Canadian National Road Race Championships and made the Canadian national road team. During Sydor’s road cycling career, she won the Canadian National Road Championships four times (1990, 1991, 1993 and 1994).
In 1991, Sydor became the first Canadian woman to win a medal in an individual international road race competition when she finished third at the UCI Road World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. That same year, Sydor made her debut in international mountain bike events, finishing fourth at the World Cup in Mont-Sainte-Anne. In only her second race, at the World Cup Cross-Country in Château-d'Oex, Switzerland, she finished first.
In 1992, Sydor was ranked third in the world in road racing. She competed at the 1992 Olympic Summer Games in Barcelona but finished in 12th place in the women’s individual road race. However, at the 1992 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, she won silver. Sydor’s last major road competition was at the 1994 Commonwealth Games. She shared a silver in the team time trial and won bronze in the road race.
Winning the World Championship was a huge accomplishment for Sydor, who had wondered if she had the talent and skill to truly succeed in mountain biking. She went on to win gold at three consecutive World Championships (1994, 1995 and 1996). She also shared the World Championship title in team relay in 2002.
One of Sydor’s gutsiest performances came while competing in a World Cup race in Plymouth, England. Nearing the end of the race, Sydor, who was already battling through the flu, had her bike chain slip off the gear. She proceeded to lift her bike onto her shoulder and dash for the finish line with a pack of racers closing in behind her. She finished the race with a bronze medal. (The rules state that a rider who suffers an injury or a mechanical failure in the final few hundred metres of a race can still complete the race if they cross the finish line with their bicycle.) “It was a full sprint for sure,” Sydor said, “but a run of desperation. You’ve got to fight for every point, and you never know which race you’ll have to drop. I think experience still counts for something out here,” said Sydor.
Sydor won a silver medal at the inaugural women’s cross-country mountain bike race at the 1996 Olympic Summer Games in Atlanta, completing the 32 km distance in a time of 1:52.36. She raced at four Olympics in total and competed into her 40s in stage racing and marathon events throughout Europe. She finished in first place at Absa Cape Epic in 2008 in the women’s category and 2009 in mixed category, before retiring from the sport in 2010.
Between 1992 and 2004, Alison Sydor never finished outside the top five at the World Championships. In 2006, at the age of 40, she finished ninth at the UCI World Championships. She has four World Championship titles (including one in a team relay), won a silver medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics, three UCI World Cup titles, 17 World Cup wins and 10 National Off Road Bicycle Association (NORBA) victories.
Sydor was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 2007, into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 2008 and into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2013. She won the Velma Springstead Trophy in 1995 and 1996; it recognizes an outstanding Canadian female athlete each year. Sydor also won the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award in 1996 as Canada’s female athlete of the year. She was named the Cyclist of the Year in 1996 by Velo News, beating out five-time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain. In 1999, Sydor was named one of 25 Canadian Cyclists of the Century by Canadian Cyclist and was awarded the Order of British Columbia.
- Velma Springstead Trophy (1995, 1996)
- Bobbie Rosenfeld Award (1996)
- Cyclist of the Year, Velo News (1996)
- Order of British Columbia (1999)
- Canadian Cyclist of the Century, Canadian Cyclist (1900-1999)
- Mountain Bike Hall of Fame (2007)
- BC Sports Hall of Fame (2008)
- Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (2013)