Courtney Duncan on target to Women's Motocross glory
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Otago's Courtney Duncan is gritting her teeth and bracing for a huge effort in the Czech Republic this coming weekend.
The Altherm Yamaha Racing Team rider from Palmerston is exactly halfway through her campaign to win the 2017 Women's Motocross World Championships (WMX) and well on target to wrap up the title she was unlucky not to clinch on debut last season.
The 21-year-old Kiwi was on top of the world when she led the 2017 championship standings after the opening round in Indonesia in March. However, she has had to deal with several setbacks since then and, after three of six rounds, she is currently third overall, albeit just six points behind defending world champion Livia Lancelot, of France, and seven behind the series leader, former world champion Kiara Fontenesi, of Italy.
The fourth round is set for Loket, in the Czech Republic, this weekend, and Duncan has been working hard to ensure she'll be at her best for that event.
Her Altherm Yamaha Racing Team boss former motocross Grand Prix star Josh Coppins, has been putting her through her paces in recent weeks and they are convinced she's ready to go on the attack at Loket.
"She's been training hard, with no real mistakes or crashes," he said. "We've been working on her riding consistency and limiting the mistakes. At the past GPs, she has been the fastest rider, but made too many mistakes and suffered too many crashes.
"We have also been working on patience, and understanding when to slow down and when to push. So far it's been good, but I hope it stays good at the GP."
Since the May 28 French GP, she has raced a French and German championship, winning both.
Duncan has a positive mind-set.
"I've been getting some good quality training on all different track conditions, so that's been great," she said.
"I've had a few regional races which has been nice and a big help to try to improve in those certain areas which seems to be helping.
"If I limit the mistakes I've made previously, focus on riding my own laps and finish with a solid weekend, I'll be more than happy."
Duncan's visit to Loket will be her first time at the circuit, although she's been a fast learner and is not perturbed by this.
She has proven a revelation on the women's scene from the first time she raced the WMX series at the start of last season. Although the "new kid on the block", she stamped her authority and won five of the 14 races of the 2016 world series, more than any other individual last year -- even though she could start only nine of the races because of injury.
Duncan crashed on a jump while leading at the German GP in May last year, the third round of the series, after clipping an errant photographer standing out on the track. Her wrist injury forced her out of the following five races as she had surgery and took time off to recover.
If she can maintain her sizzling pace, there is no reason Duncan can't win in Loket, enhance her points with a solid performance at the Swiss GP on August 13, and claim the world crown when the 2017 season wraps up in the Netherlands in September.