New Zealand’s Courtney Duncan is ready again to take on the world’s elite.
After an injury-enforced mid-season lay-off, the 20-year-old Duncan is determined to pick up exactly where she left off before her devastating accident in May, by winning on the Women’s Motocross World Championships scene.
A “novice” on the Grand Prix scene, the Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team rider from Palmerston, Otago, stunned the international motocross community when she scored back-to-back wins at the night-time series opener in Qatar in February.
Then she backed that up by finishing the day second overall at round two in The Netherlands just a month later.
She suffered a crash in the first race in the deep Dutch sand but recovered to finish fourth – at that stage the only glitch in her campaign – and she underlined her strength and speed by bouncing back to win the next race in commanding fashion, finishing a staggering 25 seconds ahead of Kawasaki’s French former world champion Livia Lancelot.
So, with three wins from four starts at those first two rounds, Duncan led the championship standings by seven points from Lancelot, with Dutch Yamaha rider Nancy Van De Ven three points further back in third.
Yamaha’s Duncan was sending ripples of panic through the competition and it had looked a mere formality that she would push on and impress again at the four rounds that were to follow.
But then tragedy struck at round three in Germany in May.
Committed to a jump, the airborne Duncan clipped a photographer standing out on the track and the Kiwi hero was sent tumbling to the dirt.
She collected her wits and bravely battled on to finish the race in 12th position, although it was probably only adrenaline that got her there in the end.
Her thumb and ankle more seriously injured than she’d first thought, Duncan was unable to start the next race and so her day and her championship hopes were suddenly in tatters.
Duncan returned home to New Zealand for immediate surgery and was forced to miss the next two rounds of the championships, in France and Italy respectively.
With those developments, Duncan slipped from first to eighth in the standings, while Lancelot has been plugging away near the front to build up a 24-point lead over Van De Ven, with German Suzuki rider Larissa Papenmeier moving up to third overall.
Even with Duncan being unable to contest half of the races (in the five rounds) so far run, she is first-equal in number of actual race wins. Duncan has won three of the five races she’s started, while series leader Lancelot has also won three races, albeit after contesting all 10 motos.
Van De Ven has also won three times from 10 starts, while Italian Honda rider Kiara Fontanesi won the remaining race.
“My championship hopes are long gone,” said Duncan, who this week had a local anaesthetic to have the pin removed from her wrist.
She will fly to Lommel, in Belgium, on Wednesday to begin preparations for round five in Switzerland on August 7.
“My physiotherapist has made a wrist brace for me and now I can’t wait to get back on the bike again. My fitness is pretty good because I’ve been in the gym and cycling a lot over the past six weeks. I have not been riding the bike in about seven weeks, so that’s want I need to do most.
“I’ve got two and a half weeks before the GP in Switzerland, but I should be all good to go. I can’t wait. It feels like I’ve been off the bike since forever.
“I’m not worried about where I finish up in the championship now. That’s been ruined for me. It’s all about setting myself up for next season now.”
Duncan and her Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing team is supported by Altherm Window Systems, Yamaha, JCR, CRC, Ados, GYTR, Yamalube, Fox Racing, Hollands Collision Centre, Star Moving, Ward Demolition, Fulton Hogan, Pirelli, FMF, DID, NGK, Matrix, Renthal, Motomuck, Workshop Graphics, Motoseat, Hammerhead, SKF, Vertex Pistons, Rtech Plastics, Etnies, Biketranz and Fulton Hogan.
Championship points standings after 5 of 7 rounds:
- Livia Lancelot 221;
- Nancy Ven De Ven 197;
- Larissa Papenmeier 174;
- Amadine Verstappen 156;
- Kiara Fontanesi 152;
- Natalie Kane 108;
- Anne Borchers 106;
- Courtney Duncan 102.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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