Duncan in attack mode
In the eyes of double world champion Courtney Duncan, attack is the best form of defence.
So when the FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship kick starts on Sunday, the 25-yearold will be racing to become the 2021 world champion rather than securing her third consecutive title.
‘‘You want to race like you’ve never won one,’’ Duncan told Stuff.
‘‘It’s important to have that and it helps to not become complacent. I’m just out there to do my best and wherever that puts me, it puts me.’’
Her 2020 moment of world championship glory came amid the height of the global Covid-19 pandemic and Duncan has, this time around, been able to enjoy a more seamless start to her campaign with no isolation on arrival and timed with life in England – where she will be based for more than four months with her British Kawasaki squad, BIKE IT Dixon Racing Team – getting back to a sense of normality.
Duncan considers herself lucky to have been able to secure both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine before she left New Zealand last month but that won’t stop the countless Covid-19 tests.
‘‘And I can tell you one thing, they don’t get any better,’’ Duncan said.
Despite two gaps of around five weeks between rounds during the championship, returning to New Zealand under the current climate is unmanageable.
‘‘It’s just something I need to adapt to.
‘‘It’s not easy when you’re on the other side of the world and you’re kind of on your own two feet, it makes it even harder I think,’’ Duncan said.
Duncan’s Kawasaki 2021 KX250 is similar to the machine she rode to victory last season with little to no changes in componentry, making for a smooth transition that should limit early-season teething issues.
Which will be important with Duncan expecting the 2021 championship to be similar to last year that saw the Kiwi rider take the championship on a countback of most wins after she was tied on championship points with Nancy Van de Ven.
‘‘I expect it to be tough, no doubt about it,’’ Duncan said.
Six-time world champion Italian Kiara Fontanesi and Van de Ven loom as the biggest threats to Duncan but the two-time defending champion predicts there will be more riders jump out of the pack to join the frontrunners this year. Something she welcomes.
‘‘Those girls want to win just as bad as I do and everyone has been working hard.
‘‘The more we can have battling up front ... that makes you continue to improve and keeps you on your toes,’’ she said.
Consistency over the 10 motos will be a major decider.
‘‘You have to bring your best to all of them, you can’t just be good at one and not the other, you have to find that consistency throughout the series,’’ Duncan said.
With the European riders having already been busy racing in events outside the world championship, Duncan will be on the back foot. However, she was also able to get in some racing during the off-season in New Zealand and has been training for months in preparation for the world championship.
At a glance
2021 Women’s Motocross World Championship calendar:
Round 1: Saturday, July 24 – GP of Czech Republic, Loket
Round 2: Saturday, July 31 – GP of Flanders-belgium, Lommel
Round 3: Saturday, September 4 – GP of Turkey, Afyonkarahisar
Round 4: Saturday, October 16 – GP of Spain, intu Xanaduarroyomolinos
Round 5: Saturday, October 30 – GP of Trentino, Pietramurata
As was the case in 2020, the fiveround series will have both motos contested on the same day to make Covid-19 protocols more practicable.
This weekend’s opening round will be contested in the Czech Republic, and Duncan predicts crowds will be hit-and-miss from country to country depending on the Covid-19 situation.
From her point of view, crowds are great for the sport but given she never rides in front of her home fans, riding with or without them in the 2021 season will not affect the way she approaches each round.
Her achievements don’t go unrecognised at home though, with Duncan recently crowned the Sportswoman of the Year and the Supreme Award winner at the Otago Sports Awards.
‘‘That was very special to me . . . in front of my people and with my people,’’ Duncan said.
‘‘I had some of my key team members there and it was cool to be able to celebrate with them.
‘‘Obviously, I’m super proud to come from Otago and put them on the map.’’