Nicola Juniper sprinted to victory in the opening round of the British Cycling Women’s Road Series, the Alexandra Tour of the Reservoir, near Blanchland, Northumberland, on Saturday.
The 32-year-old from Brentwood, riding for the Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours International team, held off breakaway rival Alexie Shaw (Epic Cycles-Scott) by just two seconds at the end of the race, which covered 58 miles and four laps of the Derwent Reservoir just over the border in County Durham.
Juniper, who was third in the opening round of the National Time Trial Series three weeks ago, showed her form on the road with victory in Saturday’s race, which was the first of 11 rounds of the series. The opening lap proved to be a nervous introduction to the 2014 series with riders crashing on the narrow wet roads.
A large group established itself as the race settled into its pace losing a number of weaker riders in its wake. The first ascent of the long climb towards The Manor House pub proved to be the testing ground of the race with the stronger teams of Matrix Vulpine, Pearl Izumi and Epic Scott increasing the pace as the road got steeper with Matrix's Helen Wyman taking the first prime.
A steady descent back around the water gave the race a chance to draw breath again before starting the second circuit. Cold, wet weather started to close in making the going tricky again on the slippy roads but by the midway mark the race began to liven up with Penny Walker, Amy Hill and Hannah Walker breaking away from the field after six riders riders hit the floor on a short descent.
Reactions from eventual race winner Juniper, Alexie Shaw made the gap to the escapees and the small group looked strong enough to stay away, but the bunch had other ideas and were soon organising themselves for the chase.
It was Shaw and Juniper who showed the stronger legs and on the penultimate lap played their hands and rode away on the Manor Pub climb. A gap of 1:30 soon appeared between them and the main bunch and it looked as the two had judged the race just right.
Amy Hill tried to bridge the gap but it was never going to be an easy task with the bunch still in view.
With the bell ringing the two frontrunners had increased their lead to just over three minutes with only 17 riders still in the chasing group and two teams not wanting to work the chase down would be to no avail.
1 Nicola Juniper (Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours International) 2:32:44
2 Alexie Shaw (Epic Cycles-Scott) at 2sec
3 Molly Weaver (Epic Cycles-Scott) at 3:42
4 Hannah Walker (Epic Cycles-Scott) at 3:45
5 Chloe Frazer (Deeside Thistle)
6 Alice Cobb (Squadra Donne)
7 Lowri Devey (Abergavenny RC)
8 Laura Massey (Epic Cycles)
9 Amy Hill (Fusion RT)