Defending champion Nikki Juniper (Ford EcoBoost) cemented her position as this season’s leading rider with victory in the North Bucks Grand Prix, round four of the British Cycling Women’s Road Series.
Juniper won from tightly-contested bunch sprint ahead of Drops RT's Laura Massey form a large field of riders on a circuit new to the Women's Road Series.
It provided an interesting, tactical battle as first a 13-rider break got away for a significant lead early in the race, followed by a brave last lap solo effort from Sophie Coleman (Drops RT) who got away to over a minute before the peloton closed her down with as little as 500 metres to the finish, forcing the bunch sprint.
The course at Newton Longville in Buckinghamshire has played host to the Women’s Masters Championships in the past and features a consistently rolling profile, never properly hilly but rarely flat, and at 75 miles provided a suitably different challenge to the riders from the previous rounds in the series.
After the riders had completed little more than a lap the initial break of 13 formed and, containing riders from all the major teams and with a gap of over 40 seconds, looked like it might be significant.
An unfortunate incident when a group of horses and their riders coming the other way veered towards the break, forced the riders onto the side of the road. Many came down, including Juniper’s team-mate Charline Joiner who was forced out of the race.
Following the crash only eight riders remained from the original break, Julie Erskine (Ford EcoBoost), Lydia Boylan (WNT), Madison Campbell (Velosport), Laura Greenhalgh (Les Filles), Kelly Murphy (Team Boot Out Breast Cancer), Sophie Coleman (Drops), Gemma Sargeant (HSS Apprise) and Alice Cobb (Matrix PB Corley Cycles), the reduced break working well together in retaining a gap for over a lap.
With so many teams represented in the break though, the peloton were happy to let them dangle off the front of the race, Juniper looking very relaxed with the situation at the front of the bunch chatting to her rivals. But the command eventually went out from the Drops team car for their riders - who had been so dominant at the previous round in Lincoln - to orchestrate the moves to pull back the break.
This they managed remarkably quickly, as the peloton re-formed and briefly settled mid-race. A couple of attempts by lone riders to get away came to nothing before Coleman, a TT specialist who has ridden off the front to win big races in the past, attacked and opened up a sizeable gap with a lap and a half to go.
The final time up the long drag through the feed station saw the peloton around 1-20 down and seemingly not in much haste to close the gap. Until that is Team Breeze organised what was effectively one of their team pursuit drills in pursuit and Coleman’s lead started to reduce.
As the crowds of spectators and team support crews gathered at the finish, race radio reported that the chase was over less than half a kilometre down the road, and sure enough the riders appeared at the end of the long finishing straight and hammered over the line as a fast moving, single bunch.
Juniper screamed with delight, hands in the air as she just got the better of Drops’ Laura Massey with Team Breeze’s Emily Nelson in third.
“That means a lot to me,” revealed Juniper. “I’m known for my consistency and although I won Tour of the Reservoir overall, I didn’t win either stage there and although I knew I didn’t really need a win to retain a lead in the series here it’s great to win.
“I got a small gap on the last drag before the finishing straight and to be honest I surprised myself in hanging on.”
Massey led in the sprint for second, with Nelson separating her from team-mate Lucy Shaw and Grace Garner rounding out the top five. First junior rider over the line was Lauren Murphy (Liv CC Epic Coaching) in a very impressive 9th place.
Juniper retains a healthy lead in the overall standings as the series moves to her home turf of Essex for the next round, the 2-day Essex Giro on June 11-12.
1 Nicola Juniper Team Ford Ecoboost 3:06:06
2 Laura Massey Drops Cycling Team
3 Emily Nelson Team Breeze
4 Lucy Shaw Drops Cycling Team
5 Grace Garner Podium Ambition p/b Club La Santa
6 Sian Botteley Starley Racing
7 Madison Campbell Team Footon Velosport
8 Hayley Jones Team Breeze
9 Lauren Murphy Liv Cycling Club - Epic Coaching
10 Lydia Boylan Team WNT
11 Charlotte Broughton Team Ford Ecoboost
12 Gabriella Shaw Podium Ambition p/b Club La Santa
13 Clemence Copie Les Filles Racing Team
14 Bethany Taylor Boot Out Breast Cancer C.C
15 Sophie Faulkner Fusion RT Fierlan
16 Emily Kay Team Breeze
17 Madeleine Gammons RP Vision Racing Team
18 Harriet Owen Matrix Fitness p/b Corley Cycles
19 Emily Meakin Mammoth Lifestyle Racing Team
20 Alice Cobb Matrix Fitness p/b Corley Cycles all same time