Courtney Duncan shrugs off disappointing year
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Perhaps 2018 will be her year?
New Zealand's Courtney Duncan has plenty to reflect upon when she looks back at her fateful 2017 Women's Motocross Championships campaign.
She lapped all but one rider on her way to winning the last race of the year in France, but had to accept third in this year's final championship standings.
The 21-year-old from Palmerston, in Otago, now can only shrug off her obvious disappointment and refocus on a fresh campaign next year.
Duncan had consistently proven herself to be the fastest motocross woman on the planet again this season, but, for a second consecutive year, she has been forced to swallow a bitter pill.
This year's six-round competition took the best riders in the world to five different countries -- the series twice visiting France -- and not once was Duncan afforded the comfort of racing on home turf, but she knuckled down to the task at hand and, at several stages throughout her 2017 campaign, the Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team rider led the championship standings.
When Duncan arrived at the sixth and final round at Villars-sous-Ecot, in France, a couple of weeks ago, she was trailing Dutch Yamaha rider Nancy Van de Ven by just two points and, with just five points to separate the top four riders, anything was still possible.
But that's when everything went wrong for Duncan.
She was out in front of race one on the Saturday, with a 20-second lead over Fontanesi, when, on the final lap, she had to take evasive action to avoid a group of riders who had fallen on a steep jump face.
Duncan's bike slid on the muddy grass and became wedged under a fence.
She recovered to finish sixth in that race, but that result dropped her to fourth in the world standings and nine points behind the then series leader van De Ven, with just one race the following day to wrap up the season.
Duncan convincingly won Sunday's final race, crossing the line 46 seconds ahead of runner-up Livia Lancelot, the defending world champion from France, but the 6-1 score-card from the weekend was not enough and she eventually had to settle for a world ranking of three for 2017.
Fontanesi won the world title by one point from Lancelot, with Duncan third overall, just one point further back (equal with van de Ven, but ahead on a count-back).
Duncan's Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team boss, Motueka's former GP star Josh Coppins, was devastated for Duncan.
"We took her race one result to the jury and they rewound the results to the previous lap [before the track had been completely wrecked and the race abandoned, therefore assigning the win to Duncan]," Coppins explained.
"But then the FIM [the world governing body] took legal advice and decided it hadn't followed the correct procedure with the red [stop race] flag and so therefore they had to revert to the original race result, leaving Courtney sixth instead of first.
"On day two Courtney dominated. She lapped all but one rider, including lapping the new world champion [Fontanesi]," Coppins said.
"Unfortunately we are at the end of our second season of what should-have-been or could-have-been and bad luck and unforeseen circumstances, all out of Courtney's hands, have taken two world titles away from her now.
"Naturally we're disappointed. We can only learn from this and try to be better next year."
Magnanimous in defeat, Duncan took it all in her stride.
"I rode as hard as I could in that second race and actually lapped the new world champion, which made me feel a little bit better," she said.
"I've turned the page and am looking ahead to next year. I'll be looking to minimise some of the mistakes I made earlier in the year and I'll be back for another attempt on that world title."
Duncan notched up four wins out of her 12 starts in the 2017 WMX champs, more than any other rider -- Fontanesi and Lancelot scored two each, van de Ven three, and Belgian rider Amadine Verstappen one.