Three Kiwi women riding high on the world stage
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Motorcycling New Zealand (MNZ) celebrating success this year, with female riders leading the way in three disciplines worldwide – motocross, road racing and cross country.
“In what is traditionally a male-dominated sport, New Zealand women are punching above their weight on the world stage,” MNZ General Manager Virginia Henderson says.
Supersport 600cc Champion Avalon Biddle, Motorcycling New Zealand General Manager Virginia Henderson and Women’s Motocross World Championship leader Courtney Duncan. Photo: Geoff Ridder
“This year it is particularly special to see Dunedin’s Courtney Duncan leading the Women’s Motocross World Championships (WMX); Christchurch-based Avalon Biddle competing as the sole female in five rounds of the Motul Pirelli Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) in the Supersport class; and Rachael Archer, of Cambridge, riding for the AmPro Yamaha factory race teamas their pro women’s rider in the Grand National Cross Country Championships (GNCC) in the United States.
“New Zealand has had its fair share of world-class international male riders in the past, namely Josh Coppins, Shayne King and Ben Townley. They dreamt big and demonstrated to the following generation that is possible for this country to deliver world champions. Now we have three women who have taken over that mantle and are well on their way to achieving international recognition,” Henderson adds.
Duncan (23) has the series leader’s red plate after two rounds of the five-round WMX and is riding a KX250 for the British Bike It DRT Kawasaki team for the first time. After injury and misfortune marred her path to victory over the past three years, she is determined to hunt down the world title on her fourth attempt. Dominant double wins at the second WMX round in May indicated that Duncan is on track to become the first Kiwi woman to bring the trophy back to New Zealand since Katherine Prumm did so, over two consecutive years, in 2006 and 2007.
“It’s definitely good for the sport to have Kiwi girls doing well around the world. Hopefully it inspires the next generation coming up through the ranks, if they see that it’s possible,” Duncan says.
While she honed her motocross skills racing and beating the boys on dirt tracks around the country, Biddle (26) grew up doing the same thing – but on the road racing circuits. Earlier this year, riding a 130-horsepower, 165kg motorbike at speeds of up to 260kmh, she became the 2019 New Zealand Supersport 600cc Champion – the first woman to ever achieve this title.
Biddle has now set her sights on the Australian equivalent, riding for Cube Racing, which is part-owned by three-time World Superbike Champion Troy Bayliss. One round in and racing again across The Ditch this weekend, Biddle is contesting the competitive 600 class. In general, her male counterparts are “really supportive, although that might change when they get sick of me beating them,” she says, with a smile.
“It’s so cool that we are doing so well for a small country. Courtney and I grew up as just ‘one of the boys’ racing in New Zealand. It’s pretty special to now be representing our countries on a world level,” Biddle adds.
Archer is only 17 years old but is already making a name for herself eight rounds into the 13-round GNCC series, where she is currently placed fourth by only 6 points. One of about 15 females racing amongst fields of up to 600 riders in this demanding sport – where her average heart rate has been over 175bpm for each two-hour race – means she has to be well prepared.
“Competing in the GNCC takes a lot of training and conditioning, as well as good nutrition to be able to maintain a consistent grind!” Archer says.
She won the 2018 New Zealand Cross Country championship under-200cc two stroke title – becoming the first woman to win a dual-gender class - and is now proud to fly the New Zealand flag internationally.
“It’s definitely awesome being a Kiwi girl and racing overseas. Considering how small our population is, it is fair to say we breed some good dirt bike riders! With Courtney and Avalon in the other disciplines, it’s awe-inspiring to see we are smashing the world stage in a mostly male-dominated sport,” Archer adds.