ECHELON-Rotor’s Nikki Juniper has continued her season-long good form in recent weeks.
In leading the Women’s National Series overall she has been attacked from all angles in a bid to dislodge her from the top spot but, despite competing as a lone rider against a number of large teams, Juniper’s solo strength is such that nobody has been able to oust her from the lead.
The Curlew Cup based on a tough 63-mile course in Northumberland was one such event where the force of the major teams tried to topple the star, whose Echelon team are based in Pershore.
The large field was decimated over the climbs en route due to much aggressive riding, which left 15 riders to fight it out for the victory.
Juniper’s closest competitor for the series – Katie Archibald – got her whole team to the front to set a blistering pace and she duly claimed victory, but Juniper’s fine second place ensured she kept the series lead.
Juniper then headed to Otley for the next round where she faced stiff competition from Lizzie Armitstead, who won the silver medal in the road race at the 2012 Olympics in London.
This time it was a town centre event and had Tour de France dignitaries in attendance just prior to the big event’s imminent Yorkshire ‘Grand Depart’.
Juniper took an early sprint prime and Armitstead used the momentary lull in proceedings to launch a fierce attack.
Dame Sarah Storey was the only rider able to join her and the two built up a comfortable lead. Neither rider featured in the overall series, so Juniper was able to let the gap open.
Storey was no match for Armitstead on the final lap as she attacked going into a corner and secured the victory by 14 seconds. With a last-gasp lunge for the line, Juniper won the bunch sprint for third place.
With just a few rounds of the series to go, the Echelon rider has marginally increased her lead.
Juniper’s toughest challenge for the team to date was the British Road Championships held over 101 arduous kilometres.
The event was based in Monmouthshire, starting and finishing in Abergavenny, and the 86-rider field consisted of the UK’s top women riders, some riding for continental or UK-based professional teams.
Also in the mix were Olympic gold medallists as well as the ex-world time trial champion, so Juniper – who made the initial 12-rider selection early on – was in fine company as she contributed well to the pace-making.
The final ascent before hitting the finishing circuits dislodged the Echelon rider from the front group, whilst up ahead Olympic track champion Laura Trott OBE took the win from Armitstead and another Olympic champion Dani King.
Digging in for the remainder of the race, Juniper took a superb tenth place which gives a true representation of her level within UK women’s cycling, which includes home and foreign-based riders as well as professional and amateur status.