Great Britain’s Nikki Harris produced a faultless performance to win her first ever UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Namur, Belgium on 20 December.
Harris led from midway through the first lap and despite being pressed hard in the closing lap by second- placed Caroline Mani of France, the 2013 national champion did not let the result she has chased for so long slip through her fingers.
Italian champion Eva Lechner led from the start line but it wasn’t long before Harris took over and began to lay the foundations of a superlative performance.
With three laps to go, Harris had built a lead of 20 seconds and was totally committed to her task, handling the technically-challenging Namur citadel course with aplomb.
At the bell lap Harris still led but Caroline Mani of France was chasing hard, trying to deny Harris her maiden win. But the pressure didn’t faze the 29-year-old from Derbyshire, crossing the line overjoyed to taste the world cup victory she has worked towards for her entire cyclo-cross career.
A day and memory I will never ever forget, a dream of mine came true, finally I win a World Cup… https://t.co/X5aLuNOzVV— Nikki Harris (@Nikkiharris86) December 20, 2015
"I can't quite believe it myself. I've literally dreamed of winning a world cup for so long,” said Harris.
"I've wanted to win a race the whole season and I've kept trying and kept trying and today I just took the lead and I just felt good. I could just keep going on my own lines.
"It was so hard,” Harris continued. “Every lap I was just counting it down and it was like, one more lap, one more lap and I just knew if I could keep pushing and keep my own pace then I could take the win.
"I can't believe it - I'm so happy."
Amazing @Nikkiharris86 getting a World Cup Cyclocross win!!! Yeeaaah! I reckon there's another World Championship jersey coming to Britain..— Mark Cavendish (@MarkCavendish) December 20, 2015
On-form Helen Wyman had a problem on one of Namur’s numerous drop-offs on lap one, tangling in the barriers and losing precious seconds. A subsequent bike change left the British champion with a lot of work to do.
Wyman eventually recovered to finish in eighth, one minute and 37 seconds back, a great comeback but disappointing for Wyman, who had won the Spa Francorchamps Superprestige event a week earlier.
Well that was an off day! Let's move on from that one. Next up Zolder!— Helen Wyman (@CXHelen) December 20, 2015
In other news @Nikkiharris86 huge congratulations on winning her first World Cup. Bet Pascal is still smiling now— Helen Wyman (@CXHelen) December 20, 2015
World cup leader Sanne Cant had a slow start, struggling with a rib injury, the European champion losing the world cup lead to Lechner who finished third.
Harris’ win moved her from fifth to third in the world cup rankings despite missing the opening round in Las Vegas.
Great Britain Cycling Team’s Hannah Payton was 25th, with Beth Crumpton 34th and Amira Mellor 40th.
yaay congrats @Nikkiharris86 !!! Did an out of breath 'whoop' finishing behind you hearing you'd won— Beth Crumpton (@BethCrumpton) December 20, 2015
Will Gascoyne was the best-placed British rider in the junior men’s event, placing 28th, riding alongside fellow Britons alongside Mark Donovan (33rd) and Harry Yates (51st). Ben Turner, named on the entry list, did not start.
“This year so far has been about exposing our young riders to the hardest cross races to see what it’s really like at top level,” said coach Chris Young.
“Each course is different and challenging. I’ve seen their commitment to the ‘cross and their enthusiasm."
The world cup concluded with the elite men's race, Britain's Ian Field finishing 32nd with Paul Oldham 55th. World champion Mathieu van der Poel of Holland took the win with a late attack ahead of Belgians Wout van Aert and Kevin Pauwels.
The UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup stays in Belgium with round five of seven in Heusden-Zolder on Boxing Day.