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Duncan determined to "Finish the Business"

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Maybe it will be third time lucky for Otago's Courtney Duncan as she prepares for another tilt at the Women's Motocross World Championships title, starting in Italy in April.

Lady Luck has certainly been no friendly travel companion for the young woman from Palmerston these past two years, but she and her Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team will be looking to turn things around this year and help her achieve the glory she so richly deserves.

The recently-turned 22-year-old from Palmerston is now completely recovered from the corrective knee and thumb surgeries she underwent last year and her fight-back to full fitness is progressing well.

"I was back on the bike last week for the first time in six months. That's a long time to be not riding and I'm so stoked to be back on the bike," she said.

"I head back to Lommel, in Belgium, next Wednesday and I'm super excited about that."

Duncan has for two consecutive seasons proven herself to be the fastest motocross woman on the planet, but, twice in a row, she has been forced to swallow a bitter pill.

She was sensational when she burst onto the Women's Motocross World (WMX) Championships scene for the first time in 2016.

Although the "new kid on the block", Duncan stamped her authority and won five of the 14 races of the 2016 world series, more than any other individual that year and this was even after she had been able to start only nine of the races because of an injury, one that she was not in any way responsible for.

Duncan crashed on a jump while leading at the German GP in May that year, the third round of the world series, after clipping an errant photographer who had been standing out on the track. The wrist injury she suffered forced her out of the following five races as she underwent surgery and she then took more time off to recover, those lost points ultimately costing her the 2016 crown.

It was messy tinkering with results that cost her the crown last year.

She crashed on a muddy uphill while leading the penultimate race of the season at the French GP last September and the race was then stopped, further racing declared impossible.

A rearrangement of the points followed, but, instead of that race result being wound back one lap, granting Duncan the win because she had been leading at that time, she was controversially credited only with sixth position. 

On day two in France, Duncan dominated. She lapped all but one rider, including lapping the new world champion, Italian rider Kiara Fontanesi, but the points denied to her by the previous day's reshuffle saw Duncan drop to third overall for the season.

"I need to be smarter this season," said Duncan. "I still have the same mind-set I have always had ... I want to win races ... but I'll also be thinking a lot more carefully about the risks I might have to take to achieve that.

"I just need to consistently keep putting points in the bank."

These thoughts were echoed by her Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team manager, Motueka's Josh Coppins.

"It would have been fairly clear to everyone involves that Courtney was the world's fastest female these past two years. If she can minimise her mistakes, she can win the world title.

"She has to realise that finishing second or third is better than not finishing at all."

The 2018 WMX series kicks off at Trentino, Italy on April 8, with five more rounds to follow – in Agueda, Portugal (on April 15); at Teutschenthal, in Germany (on May 20); in Italy again (on June 17); at Assen, in the Netherlands (September 16) and finally at Imola, in Italy (on September 30).

Duncan has incredible support from within New Zealand's motorcycling community and they all wish her every success in securing a world title for New Zealand.

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan,


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