An exacting weekend on the sandy Lommel track at the MXGP of Flanders-Belgium, has seen New Zealand’s Courtney Duncan fight hard to hold onto second overall in the FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship (WMX).
The two-time consecutive title winner from Dunedin, missed out on a round podium for this second meeting, but bolstered by her two wins at last weekend’s season opener, she sits on 85 points – only two shy of new series leader Dutchwoman Shana Van Der Vlist (87).
Riding for the England-based Bike it MTX Kawasaki team, Duncan’s day didn’t start the way she’d hoped. As the gate dropped for the first WMX race, she came out further down the order in eighth place.
Duncan then got caught up in the first lot of race drama, when she was looking to dive down the inside of Denmark’s Sara Andersen. The pair touched, and both crashed as a result. Keen to salvage some points, Duncan slogged her way through the heavy sand to finish sixth, with Lynn Valk emerging the winner in front of her home crowd.
Determined to make amends in the second race, Duncan got off to a good start, leading a trio of her title rivals, Germany’s Larissa Papenmeier, Nancy Van De Ven, of the Netherlands, and Belgian Amandine Verstappen. Italian Kiara Fontanesi then stormed through the field making several attempts to pass the Kiwi Kawasaki rider for the lead, eventually succeeding by lap four.
Riding her Kawasaki KX250 hard, Duncan cemented herself into third after a fierce battle with Van De Ven, which went on for several laps. In the end it was Van Der Vlist who enjoyed her first WMX race victory as Fontanesi, and Duncan finished second and third respectively.
Duncan says the Belgian sand tracks are not replicated anywhere else in the world and certainly not in New Zealand where she spent the summer training.
“It was a tough day in Belgium’s sand but we knew it would be tough. The local and European girls live here, or can train here and it’s always going to be hard to compete with that.”
“It’s hard to accept though, especially after coming off double wins. However, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I put my best effort into the two races, fought all the way to the chequered flag and banked important points.”
“I have to remind myself that championships are won on your bad days. I’m going to keep my chin up and keep working hard. We’re in a positive position and there’s a long way to go,” Duncan says.
Kawasaki New Zealand’s Managing Director Shane Verhoeven agrees with Duncan about the saying you win championships on your bad days.
“To see her display her characteristic grit and determination against riders more acclimatised to the deep sand conditions of Lommel in both motos was great to witness on MXGP-TV,” he says.
“Moto 2 was especially exciting to watch Courtney regather herself mid-moto, increase her intensity and pressure the front runners again late in the race. Good luck for the next round CD!” Verhoeven wraps up.
The WMX action heads to Turkey for a special double-header race on September 4 and 5, closely followed by a mid-week race on September 7 and 8.
Words: Catherine Pattison