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Thursday, 02 October 2014

Juniper clinches reservoir title in dramatic finish

THERE was high drama in the inaugural Alexandra Women’s Tour of the Reservoir (ToR) event when the country’s best female cyclists headed to the district.

Just two seconds separated the front two in the race, part of British Cycling’s elite road series, as organisers of the ToR series Tyne Valley Cycling Club celebrated another bumper year.

Growing in popularity each year, the event was in a position to welcome females for the first time this year. This follows last year’s expansion when the men’s race became a two-stage event.

Held in and around Northumbrian Water’s stunning Derwent Reservoir, Nicola Juniper became the first female victor around the Edmundbyers and Blanchland course in a closely fought battle.

Her winning time of two hours, 32 minutes and 44 seconds, was just two seconds better off than runner-up Alexie Shaw. In third place was Molly Weaver with a time of 3:42.

The race, named after Princess Alexandra who opened Derwent Reservoir in 1967, was a fantastic addition to the series, and Nicola, from Essex, was over the moon to be crowned champion.

She said: “It was a brilliant race, but a very tough course. Everyone says Essex is flat and it is compared to here!

“I was well prepared for this race and it is the type of challenge that women's cycling needs.

“This is my best ever result really, and I've been racing since 2008 and to be able to do this for the team Pearl Izumi Sports Tours is amazing.”

Prior to the race, all talk was about the appearance of Helen Wyman as she was being targeted as the woman to beat.

With two European and eight British national titles to her name in cyclo-cross, Wyman was favourite to transfer her triumph into road racing.

But Wyman finished outside of the top 25, and it was Juniper who continued her great form by claiming the glory just weeks after finishing third in the opening round of the National Time Trial Series.

Another big name expected to take the opening fixture as the elite series got underway was London 2012 Olympics gold medallist Ed Clancy.

Awarded an MBE for helping Team GB to Olympic success in the team pursuit, Clancy was the biggest name in the 140 strong field, but did not challenge for a podium finish.

The overall winner over the two stages was Alex Peters who built on his success in stage one with fifth the following day.

The Madison Genesis representative beat teammate Pete Hawkins to second place, the latter finishing just behind his rival in stage one in a photo finish of two hours, 53 minutes and 21 seconds.

Stage one consisted of a 75-mile uphill circuit starting in Blanchland Village, which took in five gruelling laps of the tough roads around Blanchland and Edmundbyers to compete for selection for day two of the event.

After a close battle with his teammate Hawkins and third placed Yanto Barker, of Team Rayleigh, Hackney’s Peters was delighted to come through the wet and windy conditions with his nose in front.

As was the case last year, Evan Oliphant won the second stage as he crossed the line first after battling it out over eight laps of the circuit before finishing the 104-mile route at the reservoir.

His time of four hours, 53 minutes and 10 seconds saw him finish ahead of second placed Jonathan Mould, of Team NFTO Pro Cycling, and third placed Ian Wilkinson, of Team Rayleigh.

Scot Oliphant said: “I live in Edinburgh so it is only two hours away for me and is one of the most local reservoir for me to cycle at, and the roads are very similar to areas where I train in Scotland.

“It was a very tough race but I’m used to stronger winds than this in the north Scotland!”

Oliphant’s triumph was not enough to knock Peters off his perch, though, and the top three from stage one kept their respective positions on the podium at the finish.

Peters said: “I’m looking forward to the next competitions in this road series now and I’d like to say thank you to my team mates, as they rode so well.

“I’d also like to pass my thanks onto the organisers and sponsors for doing an incredible job running the Northumbrian Water Tour of the Reservoir.”

The action in stage two was disrupted for more than 10 minutes when the Great North Air Ambulance Service was called to the area.

A competitor in the race sustained a head injury but, after being assessed at the scene by the air ambulance doctor, it was declared that the injuries were not life-threatening as his helmet had done its job and prevented serious injury.

The cyclist was transferred to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary by ambulance and was reported to be in a stable condition.

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