Duncan away to brilliant start

Courtney Duncan flies to victory in the opening round of the world motocross championship in the...
Courtney Duncan flies to victory in the opening round of the world motocross championship in the Czech Republic. PHOTO: SHOTBYBAVO
Double world champion Courtney Duncan started her title defence in dominant style at the weekend.

The Otago rider went 1-1 to win the opening Czech Republic round in Loket.

The Bike IT MTX Kawasaki rider not only leads the championship by 10 points but notched up several other significant career milestones.

Her double victories were the third time she has won both races at the WMX’s season’s first round. They also bought her race win tally to 30, podium total to 20 and GP victories to 15.

"It definitely feels good going 1-1 in the season-opener.

"There’s a lot of hype leading in. Another GP win and a red plate leading into round two is very positive,” Duncan said.

“It was good to get back into the world competition.

"There’s a lot of expectations and a lot of pressure on the world stage but that’s something that I crave and definitely have been missing. But at the same time it’s taken a little bit to get used to and adjust to.

"I’m not going to lie, there’s quite a bit of nerves, mixed emotions and all the excitement that comes with it.

"Once I’ve got that first race out of the way, I was feeling good moving forward.”

In race one, Duncan (25) showed her rivals she meant business, taking the holeshot while several riders, including Kiara Fontanesi, Larissa Papenmeier and Nancy Van De Ven, got caught up in a first-turn incident.

Duncan then led Shana Van Der Vlist and Lynn Valk, who got around Amadine Verstappen, while Fontanesi, Papenmeier and Van De Ven were fighting their way up to the top five.

Lap by lap, Duncan edged out further, winning the race by an impressive 22.534sec over Van Der Vlist, while Valk placed third.

In race two, it was Papenmeier who got a flying start, though a couple of corners later Duncan passed her for the lead.

While Duncan started the second heat much like the first, this time around Papenmeier kept close to the Kiwi for several laps. And while the German searched for a way around the defending champion, it was Fontanesi who was the fastest rider on track as she caught up with the two leading women.

As Fontanesi diced with Papenmeier, Duncan seized the opportunity to open up a gap, as the two women behind were locked in battle.

With three laps to go, Duncan got caught up with a backmarker and while she went down, she picked herself up quickly to take the race win ahead of Papenmeier and Van De Ven.

With two race wins, Duncan was the overall round winner, with Van Der Vlist second and Papenmeier third. This is also how the championship standings look, as the women head into round two next weekend in Lommel, Belgium.

“I don’t feel too different to last year, when I was also defending the championship and I feel every year I still have a little bit of pressure and a target on my back, but I just do the best I can do each weekend and that’s all I can ask for,” Duncan says.

Incredibly, she had not swung a leg over her race Kawasaki KX250 bike until the lights went green in race one.

“My buildup was OK — it wasn’t excellent.

"My mechanic got Covid a few weeks ago and a few things weren’t smooth. I didn’t get to ride the race bike until today. That’s always hard to adjust to on race day.”

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