Canadian Cyclist

 

October 17/18 13:13 pm - Hall of Fame Interviews - Linda Jackson & Eric Wohlberg


Posted by Editoress on 10/17/18
 

On September 30th, three new members were inducted into the Canadian Cycling Hall of Fame - Linda Jackson, Eric Wohlberg and the late Nora Young [see Jackson, Wohlberg & Young Enter Canadian Cycling Hall of Fame].

We spoke with Linda and Eric afterwards about their careers and post-racing involvement - Linda is the founder and owner of the women's team TIBCO-SVB, and Eric is a team director for the men's program at Rally Cycling.

 

PHOTO

Eric Wohberg (wearing his Atlanta Olympic Games jacket) and Linda Jackson

 

Canadian Cyclist: So, let's start with being inducted into the Hall and the actual ceremony.

Linda: I was obviously very happy to be inducted. My husband flew in from California and my Dad came down. We had the [Legends] bike ride in the morning, which was really exciting - at the rest stop we all gathered around a mobile phone and watched Mike Woods race to a third place finish for Canada [at Road Worlds]. That was just superb, to be in that environment and see a Canadian get bronze at Worlds.

At the lunch I knew that I had to give a talk, and I knew what I was going say ... and then they played this video they had made of my career, and all of a sudden I got choked up! I got up on the podium and I was choked up because they did such a good job with the video, and it just took me back to those days - the ups and the downs, the Olympics and everything else.

I wanted to say that I wished my mom was still with us, and that choked me up even further! Emotions are great; without emotions you are not really living. So, it was a wonderful time, a wonderful experience, and I was very grateful to be inducted.


Eric: I'm very honoured to be part of an exclusive club of Canadian cyclists. To see my name on the plaque in Milton was great. Honestly, it was one of the best weekends of my life; all of my family were able to come down from northern Ontario, and I had some friends and people I raced with show up for the Legends ride. I was very impressed with how the whole weekend went, and hats off to Cycling Canada and the Hall of Fame Committee for putting this together.

We got to watch some track racing in Milton [at the national championships]. My family have never been to a velodrome before, and for them to witness the Madison - one of the most exciting races on the track - it was a really great evening for everyone.

I've never been to the [Milton] track, so I was very impressed with the facility. When I lived in Oakville I used to ride up to Milton a lot for the mid-week training races; it's a great spot for the track.


CC: What do you look back on as the highlights of your career?

Linda: The 1994 Commonwealth Games road race [in Victoria, BC] is still to me - even though it was only a silver medal - it held a special place in my heart. My parents were there, my mom grew up on Vancouver Island and we have a lot of family there. Kathy Watt [Australia] was off the front and Canada tried to chase her down for a while ... I got a gap on a descent, and thought, 'Okay, I'm going for it'. I came down the home stretch to a silver medal and thunderous applause because it was in Canada. I still get goosebumps when I think about it. Even though it was early in my career, it is definitely one of the highlights.

The 1996 Road Worlds was another one, for sure [where she won silver]. That was a hard race and I crashed on the first lap and had to chase back on. The [1996] Olympics were a high and a low. It was a high from making the team and the whole experience of representing your country at the Olympics, and it was a low because I ended up on the pavement on the first lap. But even with that crash, I still think of that as a highlight of my career - how many people earn the opportunity to go to the Olympics?


Eric: Sometimes, I will admit, I look at the other recipients and, you know, I'm lacking the world championship medals or an Olympic medal, so I'm a little frustrated about that part of my career, honestly. But, I had a pretty long run in the sport and I try to continue to make significant contributions.

I think clearly the Commonwealth Games and Pan Am titles I would have to point to; I think those were probably best I could hope to achieve. But I also won a lot of stages and some pretty significant races down in the States. I won [Tour of] Somerville a couple of times, and for a non-sprinter to win one of the oldest running races in North American cycling ... I like to point to that result. I won stages in Altoona, the overall at Fitchburg, stages at Killington, so I've definitely been around the block!

But the biggest standout was the [Commonwealth Games] time trial gold in Kuala Lumpur. That was actually on my Dad's 65th birthday, and his last day of work; September 15th, 1998. I was actually home a few weeks ago with my dad for his 85th birthday, 20 years to the date after I won that medal.


CC: And disappointments?

Linda: I wish I hadn't crashed in the first lap of the Olympics! I was super fit and that was a great course for me. To give up the investment banking thing to pursue the Olympics ... I really wish I hadn't been in that crash on the first lap. I can't think of anything else really. I gave the sport everything I had, and that's why I haven't raced since. I did the best I could, and I had no desire to go back and race. So, I don't really have any regrets. I had a short, condensed career, I gave it everything I had while I was racing and I tried my best.


Eric: I think one of my worst days was the road race in Athens [2004 Olympics]. I flatted at a really, really bad time and had a bad wheel change ... it just happens, but at the time I flatted was when a bunch of teams started riding hard to pull back the break. It was just a bit of real bad luck at a key time. The other thing is that I was real close a few times to winning the road race at Nationals - I had a bunch of seconds and thirds - but it was difficult to pull that one off. I came heartbreakingly close on several occasions ... if there's one thing I regret not having on my resume, it's that national championship road race title. But maybe I might come back and do it, you never know!


CC: Both of you have stayed with cycling, post-retirement.

Linda: I've thought a lot about that. People say 'oh, they love cycling and are passionate about the sport', but I think the proof is in the pudding. When I finished racing, I went back to banking for a few years, but I felt so disconnected from the sport. So I was really happy to get back into it and start coaching and start the team. I get really, really excited when my riders do well. Somebody asked me about that: 'Why? It's not like you're winning medals, or you're winning the race?' I looked at them and thought: 'You really don't understand, do you?'.

I jump up and down with excitement when one of my riders does well, because it is such a fulfilling thing to see them achieve their dreams, to make progress. It's really rewarding. So, that's why I'm still in the sport; I've now had this team twice as long as my cycling career.

If you have passion, you don't just disappear after your career. You find a way to contribute and stay involved.


Eric: I think if you look at Canada's performances over the last few years - whether it be the women's track medals at the Worlds and Olympics, or the men's Team Pursuit program, and then you add this year's performance at Road Worlds ... everyone hit the ball out of the park there, women and men, Juniors to Elites. So, I think it's coming along nicely.

I think with our [Rally Cycling] program we've had some breakout performances as we stepped up to the Pro Conti level; and I think it's showing that North American cyclists are able to perform. And these aren't the regular names we usually hear - we have Canadian Juniors and Espoirs [Under-23]. We do have the ability to perform on the world stage right now. We need to continue to make an investment in this. So we can't have teams like Silber going away, we have to stay out there.

Back in my day, a lot of my success and motivation came from the fact that I could do the [Canadian Tire] Canada Cup series coast to coast. It gave me incentive and kept me motivated to ride. So I think it's pretty tough now days without those series that allow riders to showcase what they can do. I give credit to Mark Ernsting and BC Superweek for keeping that series going. I think that model has got to be reproduced in other population centers across Canada. That can give riders something to look towards when they are training.

 

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