Avalon Biddle: One of a kind
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It's probably been said hundreds of times already, but Avalon Biddle is one of a kind.
The 24-year-old Aucklander was the first, and now she's also the last, to win the European Women's Cup (EWC) for road racing, although that's a status she's not so sure she wants.
Biddle won the inaugural EWC in 2015 -- that series ran in conjunction with the European Junior Cup (EJC) and the World Superbike Championships (WSBK) -- and she backed that up by retaining her title this season, but now she reports that, after running for just two years, the competition has been dissolved and will not be an option for her in 2017.
The double EWC champion from Orewa will possibly now have to be content with beating most of the boys back home in New Zealand, something she's been doing anyway with stunning regularity, for many years now.
However, she also has her fingers crossed that Dorna -- the worldwide promotion company for the WSBK competition -- will relent and again provide a female-only class of racing in 2017.
"They ran the EWC for only two years, and I won the title both years, but now they've shelved it. Instead they are installing a 300cc championship, to run alongside the 600cc and superbike championships, but that's a shame for people like me who so much enjoyed the EWC and EJC series," says Biddle.
"I won the EWC in 2015 and 2016 and that is a huge honour, but it will cost me a lot of money, about €50,000, to buy myself a ride in the 300cc championship.
"I hope Dorna will look again at providing a special competition for the women, although that's not likely. I do believe that women can be competitive with the men in this sport anyway," she says.
"I might be lighter than some of the men and so I may have a small power-to-weight advantage, but the men are stronger and, because I'm quite short, only 155cm tall, they have more leverage on the bike than I do.
"It is likely that all my rivals in the European Women's Cup will simply return to race in their own domestic competitions," says Biddle.
"I understand (2016 EWC runner-up) Stacey Nesbitt is heading home to Canada to race there."
Biddle will also be tackling her national championships at home this summer, before cementing her plans for the rest of 2017.
The New Zealand Superlites (formerly F3) champion in 2015, Biddle is getting ready to race her MTF vehicle finance-backed Kawasaki ZX6R in the F2 class in the Suzuki Series, starting at Taupo next month, and in the 600cc class in the New Zealand Superbike Championships, starting at Ruapuna, Christchurch, in January.
The bike will be prepared for her by Ozzy Performance -- Chris Osborne of Feilding -- and, although it's a Kawasaki, it will be decked out in bright yellow to reflect her sponsor's colours.
Biddle did not defend her 2015 title this season, although she did "have a quick blast" on the Kawasaki ZX6R at the final round of the 2016 nationals at Hampton Downs in March, before she headed off to Italy for the year.
"I went quite well on the bike that weekend ... I finished fifth in the 600cc class. I had not been on a 600 bike in quite some time. It is definitely a fast bike and I just need to get my brain up to speed with it too."
She says she'll be satisfied with a top-three result in the nationals, but she is expecting a battle with riders such as Wainuiomata's Shane Richardson, Whakatane's Damon Rees, Christchurch's Cam Hudson and her boyfriend, Rangiora's Jake Lewis.
"I'll only race the first two (of three) rounds in the Suzuki Series because the final round is in the street circuit at Wanganui (around the famous Cemetery Circuit on Boxing Day) and I'm not comfortable with that.
"I'll be wanting as much track time on the bike as I can get before the nationals and we'll possibly think about Europe again after all that."