Courtney Duncan is out to regain the world title. Photo / Photosport
Courtney Duncan says her fitness is back to “100 per cent” as she begins her bid this weekend to regain the women’s world motocross title, albeit on her least favourite surface in Sardinia.
The 27-year-old was on track to add to her 2019, 2020 and 2021 world titles in 2022 until a crash while practising resulted in a smashed collarbone which required a plate to be inserted.
Duncan rehabbed back in New Zealand and returned to Europe for the final two rounds — winning three races and placing second in the fourth — but the two rounds she missed ruined her championship hopes.
Now Duncan is confident she’s on the brink of another fulfilling season.
“It’s exciting to be back in Europe and getting ready to go racing,” Duncan told the Herald from the Italian island of Sardinia.
“I had the plate taken out late last year and have been building up my fitness to be 100 per cent for the first race. I’m eager to get back behind the line, get the season under way and see where we fit in.”
Duncan sought plenty of racing in New Zealand in recent months before heading to Europe.
“I’ve been working on the bike to get my fitness up and I’ve had a pretty good pre-season.
“I spent quite a lot of time in the North Island training on some different tracks and tougher conditions. They were probably more specific to what I’m going to experience here in Europe over the next few races.
“[There was] plenty of competition there as well, and it was a good decision to go north [from her Dunedin base] and I think it will help me racing in Europe.
“I didn’t get as much racing in as I would have liked but it’s better than going straight into the season without any competition riding.”
Duncan is continuing with Dixon Racing — her team of the past five years — and will remain riding a Kawasaki. There are no great changes to her machinery this season, so getting back up to international speed shouldn’t take long.
This weekend’s opening round of the WMX championship is on Duncan’s least favourite surface, deep sand. As much as she tried to find similar conditions in New Zealand on which to practise, nothing quite replicates the Sardinian track.
Fitness especially will be a key but Duncan is confident that good qualifying and race craft will see her through.
“It’s hard to replicate the deep sand tracks in New Zealand and it will be tough this weekend. I have to change my riding style and have more weight over the back wheel and let the bike dance around and do its thing. It’s really physical, which I enjoy.
“It’s only round one, though [of six]. It’s the first race, so everyone will feel like they have a chance.