Courtney Duncan has conceded her world motocross title defence is over as she continues her recovery from a broken collarbone.
It's two weeks to the day since the 25-year-old three-times defending world champion had surgery on the injury - suffered in practice ahead of the second round of the WMX championship in Portugal earlier this month - and it will be another two weeks before scans will reveal whether she is a chance to line up in the third round in Sardinia on May 14.
Duncan has struggled to deal with the reality that, just a month into her European campaign, her chances of retaining her title for a fourth straight season are gone. She has 32 points from the opening two rounds with Dutch rival Lynn Valk leading the standings on 97, ahead of compatriot Nancy Van De Ven on 91.
"To win a championship from the position we are in is slim to none. I mean even mathematically, I don't even think it's nearly possible. I am already 75 points down with it and with a small championship you can't come back from that sort of thing so yes, frustrating it was a rough start to the season." Duncan told the Herald.
The Dunedin rider effectively went off the radar after undergoing surgery as she came to terms with the disappointment and refocused.
It's not just the broken collarbone that hurts for Duncan, whose preparation for the season was far from ideal. Held up in New Zealand because of UK visa issues, she only arrived at the first round in Italy a couple of days before the first race last month, and had no real time training on her Kawasaki KX250 race bike.
"You can't come in late like that," Duncan admitted. "I had no preparation in Europe, no time on the race bike and we were just fully underprepared and this puts you on the back foot and then some anything else happens, something else happens and you kind of asked to be in this position.
"So yeah, I'm super frustrated. But I think the biggest thing that I can do from here on now is to learn from this and come back a wiser athlete.
"It sucks because there are only six rounds so you can't really afford to miss a race. Even if it's a little bit of a longer series, you still can't afford to miss a race. That's why it's called a championship, and that's why they're hard to win - because you have to be at every single race and you have to maximise as many points as possible.
"It's not the fastest one or the one that wins the most who wins the championship. Sometimes you just have to be there and clock points. I know that because we've lost them in the past because of this. So yeah, frustrating, but there's still some races left and some rounds left, and we'll try our best and try to get on top of the box in a couple of them."
The setbacks this season rank among the worst of her career to date. In 2018 she was on the cusp of winning a first world championship title when a right foot injury forced her out of the last two races.
She suffered similar heartbreak in 2016 when, despite winning five of the 14 races, she was injured after crashing into a photographer which dashed her title hopes.
"I've battled through a fair bit of adversity to this point and I have had my fair share of injuries and coming up short on championships. Obviously a little bit bittersweet on this one, just frustrating and disappointed in myself. But at the same time, I'm only human, and these things happen. So although it's been a tough pill to swallow we're already focused on the future and you can't dwell too much on what's been done." Duncan lamented.
Going back to the injury in Portugal, Duncan initially tried to race with her broken collarbone, but was denied the opportunity by the officials.
"I was in quite a lot of pain. So I opted to get some x-rays at the track and obviously showed the break and didn't know beforehand. If you come in with a break you're deemed unfit to ride. So I wasn't allowed to race or attempt to race, which was a bit of a bummer. But maybe it was a blessing in disguise as well as I probably could have done some further damage."
Duncan is hoping for a good outcome when she sees her Belgian surgeon again in a fortnight, and while would like to be on the starting line for the third round of the Championship in Sardinia, she won't push it if not 100 percent with winning a fourth straight world championship no longer the focus.
"The progress has been really good, but we won't know how it is until we get back on the bike, or at least until we get some x-rays and see the surgeon which is another two weeks and brings me to, like, the 3rd of May.
"Then obviously I have to fit and get some bike time and stuff like that. So it's all up in the air at the moment."