New Zealand's professional motocross racer Courtney Duncan is at the penultimate round of the 2017 Women's World Motocross Championship in the Netherlands this weekend.
The 21-year-old has a three-point buffer at the top of the series' table over former world champions Kiara Fontanesi and Livia Lancelot.
Duncan had a hiccup mid season, but is now back fit and healthy and she got her championship challenge back on track at Loket in the Czech Republic in late July by winning the round. Like all true professionals Duncan is not looking at the possibility of winning her first world title, rather she's looking to take each race as it comes.
"I'm really excited for this weekend's races as it's been about seven weeks since my last race," Duncan told the Herald from Assen.
"I'm ready to get back behind the gate and get back at it. It's too far out to be thinking about the championship or points. If you concentrate on things like that you'll get yourself in trouble.
"For me it's the same game plan I had a Loket. I want to get myself in a good position at the start of the race and ride my own race and what will be, will be.
"I want to go out there and enjoy what I do best and won't be worrying about any of the other riders. I come to Assen in a good position [leading the series] and will be smart out there and only focus on my riding."
The track at Assen is different to those the category normally runs on as it's sand based, which requires a different approach to that on plain old dirt. Sand makes the bike behave in a different way and is much more physically demanding, but Duncan has a plan to make sure she's in the hunt at each race.
"I've been training on sand in the run up to this weekend to make sure my fitness levels are high. The track here is tough and hard on you as a rider.
"Dirt and sand riding styles are completely different. You have to be very smooth and patient in the sand and if you're too aggressive it will punish you. You have to find a rhythm and if you don't that 25 minutes [race distance] is going to be very tough.
"Your riding position is completely different where you have to be further back on the bike and you're standing up much more, which is tiring.
"If you make a mistake in sand it impacts a lot [than on dirt] and making a mistake in one corner mucks up the next one and then all of a sudden your rhythm is gone. You have to be patient and keep a good flow going.
"The race isn't won on the first lap, or even on the middle laps. The last few laps are crucial as people start getting tired and start making mistakes, so I'll see where I'm at then and decide what to do," said Duncan.
It's only Duncan's second season on the world tour and she's still on a learning curve especially when coming to grips with the various tracks the series races on. The season starts in March and the final race (of seven) is at the end of September so it makes for a long, drawn out process.
"I'm always learning so I'm always having fun, so it's not boring by any means. There's so much to learn and I'm always trying to find the best balance between racing and the times in between and how to peak for each race," she said.
Duncan has developed a much more measured approach to her racing that is paying dividends. In the past Duncan wanted to win ever lap of every race, which on occasion caused her to come unstuck. She's now realized that coming second in a race and banking the points is a better option than going for glory and possibly crashing out.
Women's World Motocross Championship
1. Courtney Duncan 155
2. Kiara Fontanesi 152
3. Livia Lancelot 148
4. Nancy Van De Ven 143
5. Larissa Papenmeier 122
6. Amandine Verstappen 121
7. Nicky van Wordragen 119
8. Shana van der Vlist 89