Sydor's swift mountain climb
By STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun
Alison Sydor's progression as an athlete has been nothing short of
In a span of 10 years, the Calgary native has evolved from a decent high
school athlete (jack of all trades, master of none) to world mountain bike
Sydor didn't even take up cycling as a recreational pastime until age 20
(1987), during her first year of biochemistry studies at the University of
Within a year she was on the national team. Three years after that she
became the first Canadian woman to win a world championship medal in the
individual road race competition (a bronze).
In 1991, the North Vancouver resident decided to concentrate more on
cycling's mountain bike discipline. That season, she finished fifth at the
worlds, placed second the following year. She's now a two-time defending world
All that's left is a gold at the Atlanta Olympics.
"I did a lot of different sports in high school, but I was always second-
or third-best, never the best in anything," Sydor said yesterday, during a
break from training. "By the time I arrived at UVic, I had basically tried
every sport under the sun."
Sydor, 29, decided to tackle the demanding sport of triathlon (cycling,
swimming, running) during her first year at UVic, "basically just to keep
Realizing that competing in the triathlon is more than just a part-time
fling, Sydor elected to concentrate exclusively on cycling. The rest is
"By the end of that year (1987), I went to the Western Canadian Games and
won gold in all three (cycling) disciplines," she said. "Obviously, it was the
sport for me."
Sydor competed at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, finishing 12th in the road
race, but soon after decided mountain biking suited her best.
Obviously she isn't alone; the sport has grown by leaps and bounds all over
the world. "At the first mountain bike worlds I competed in (1991), there were
about 80 women. At this year's competition, there were 169 women from 35
countries," she said. "And I guarantee you, it will be one of the best events
Still, even after deciding to forsake road racing for the trails and hills,
Sydor never dreamed the International Olympic Committee would include mountain
biking as a medal event by the 1996 Atlanta Games.
"Usually it takes years for that to happen," she said. "I never thought
while I was still competing in this event, I'd get the chance to take part in
Not only take part, probably win. Even though she had an up-and-down 1995
season, Sydor came through with another world title and quickly has earned the
reputation as a big-meet competitor.
"That's one of the most impressive things about Alison," said Canadian
Cycling Association executive director Patrick Healy. "It's one thing aiming
for the top, but it's a whole different ball game getting there and staying
there. She obviously has what it takes."