Kiwi Girl

In DRD 128, we spoke to Courtney Duncan just before she flew to Qatar to realise her dreams, which she did by smoking the competition. But, wait, there’s a twist: she’s going back to finish the season! On the eve of heading to the Netherlands and her second-place spot on the podium, we caught up with the ever humble Miss Duncan.

courtney duncan

Courtney Duncan

Interview: Callum | Photos: Chris Ritchie

First, we have to say, what an epic ride! How are you feeling?
It wasn’t too bad. I’m pretty happy with how it all went. But I am feeling a wee bit jet-lagged. But I’ll rest up for a couple of days, before we go at it, again. I’ll probably ride on the weekend, I’d say. But I’ll see how I’m going. I just want to be 100 per cent fit and healthy before I hop on the bike, like we all do, as not to risk a small mistake.

So, it was finish the race, collect the trophy, go back to the hotel and head to the airport to hop on a plane back to New Zealand?
It was even more hectic than that, as we had to be at the airport at two in the morning, so there was no point sleeping. Before that, there was a press conference, which finished at eleven; so, once we went back to the hotel, picked my stuff up, it was almost midnight and time to go check in.

Let’s be honest: at that point, you would’ve been pretty amped, so sleep probably wasn’t an option, huh?
Yeah, I was pretty happy! But I was pretty tired, too…

Going back to when you landed in Qatar, you left New Zealand on a Monday, arriving on Tuesday morning – that is a over a full day of traveling – which probably means you didn’t have much bike time before the weekend of racing?
There was no bike time, at all. Qatar is built on sand. So there are no tracks to ride on. That means you have to get used to the bike in practice. But there was a gym at the hotel, which means, after a couple of days to acclimatise, I started working out. Basically, it was light jogs and stretching, nothing too serious.

The first practice was on Friday?
Yup, on the Friday afternoon, along with the timed session. The next day was race day.

How were the nerves at the point?
I don’t think I got all that nervous. I was concentrating hard, trying to get used to the new track, the bike and every thing else that comes along with it. It’s so different to New Zealand, so there was a lot to learn, pick up and take from the experience. I qualified fourth, which wasn’t that great. And it wasn’t like I wasn’t trying, either, ‘cause I definitely was. I went out to put in a fast lap, but it seems the Europeans are good at that one thing: the hot lap. But I didn’t get too phased about it, as the race is completely different. Really, if you put something in front of you, you always chase it down, no matter what. That’s why I always race better than I qualify, no matter where we go – I was always confident.

So, what nerves you might have had dissipated by the time you lined up for the first race?
Yeah, I just had a different attitude for it. It’s just so different, as it’s on the world stage, so it was pretty tough. But, like I said, I knew I’d done the work. I knew the programme we had had been working with the races in New Zealand; and there was no reason why we couldn’t do the same there. I just had to focus and get it done. It was 25-minute motos, too, so we had to put in some solid laps. It’s a long time to race.

That’s twice as long as the women’s class in New Zealand, and five minutes longer than a moto here in the national class, right?
It sure is! You could say that It’s quite a few more laps. In total, it was 13 laps, I think?

Style for days... and nights!

Style for days… and nights!

Okay, nobody at Qatar, except for your team, expected you to come out and win, right? Let along by 30 seconds…
No, absolutely not – especially after timed practice. I think my competitors thought they were going to have it. Honestly, they really thought they had it in the bag. But I knew that the racing would be different. I just had to focus, go out and do the best I could. But I did that and came away with two wins.

When the racing was done, at the time, you and your team were just going to see what happens and go from there, but you won – and easily – so what’s happening from here?
I am going back to contest the rest of the series. At this point, we haven’t signed anything, but there are offers. It’s just a matter of putting it all together and working out what’s best and what will keep me moving forward in the right direction. There’s so much to work out, as well as work through, and we don’t have much time on our hands. In the end, it will be a quick process.

When is the next round for you?
It’s at the end of March in Valkenswaard, followed by Teutschenthal in Germany, which is at the start of May.

Given there is so much time between rounds, will you be coming back to New Zealand in between each race, or is that not worthwhile?
It’s hard to say and I’m not 100 per cent sure. We do lose a week to jet lag, which cuts into training time and puts my health in jeopardy, which is why we have to weigh up those options. Since there are six rounds, which could be 12 weeks lost to travel and the jet lag that goes with it. With that, it’s safe to say that we’ll be staying over there, but I don’t know how long it will be.

Closer to home, what’s the next piece of training to help you on this mission?
Leading into the next race, Josh will have me doing motos on Oreti Beach and doing as many laps as possible in Invercargill. I grew up racing down there, so I know how it is. It is pretty sandy, but I don’t know how it compares to Valkenswaard or other tracks in Europe. But it’s the closest thing we’ve got, and we’ll make the most of what we have.

You’re pretty comfortable in the sand, though?
I am. It is a challenge, but I really enjoy it. I reckon it’ll be fine. To be honest with you, we’ll only start moving forward in the sand ‘til we get over there. Because by the sounds of it, I’ll be based in Belgium, which is just sand, which is where I’ll put in the real work.

It was no surprise, but social and mainstream media blew up with your win, so how did your main sponsors react to the win?
They are pretty happy! All the sponsors that are behind me have been posting, so it’s safe to say that everyone was pumped, from Yamaha Motor New Zealand to Fox Racing. They hadn’t seen me ride for a long time – at such a level, anyway – so it was cool for them to see me back on top. I think everyone is happy… including myself. But I can always be better, so the work doesn’t stop. There’s a lot to learn at this stage of my career.

We saw that you kept the “Kiwi Girl” butt patch, so that will continue through the season, I guess?
Yeah, for sure, I’ll keep running that!

Taking the win!

Taking the win!

Check issue 129 for more Kiwi action from MXGP!