Two-time Canoe Slalom Olympian Mike Dawson is taking on the Whaka 100km for the first time in October.
Dawson started out on the water kayaking which evolved into a successful 15 year Canoe Slalom career in which he attended two Olympic Games, 11 world championships, and multiple World Cups.
He said a highlight was the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, where he placed 10th.
“Rio 2016 was pretty awesome. Having great performances at the Games and being part of a really cool team, both the NZ Olympic Team and our smaller Canoe Slalom team.”
After a 15 year career, he made the decision to retire at the beginning of 2019.
With more time on his hands, Dawson started exploring the Whakarewarewa Forest on bike. He signed up for the Whaka100 as a new challenge.
“My biking background is pretty new. I started exploring the Whakarewarewa Forest once I finished racing in 2019, as I was generally too scared to break myself before that.”
“I got a bike and just started getting out there. It’s a rad community and I enjoy the vibe in the forest. Now I’m trying to do more and more trips around the country exploring other bike parks and tracks and slowly getting better.”
He said he entered the Whaka100 to explore more trails in the forest and to see if he could ride 100km.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time, now I’m not so sure. To be honest, it was more about exploring all the trails in the forest and seeing if I could ride for 100kms.”
“I actually have no idea what to expect or my goals. I guess to finish it and perform well for myself. I’ve never ridden 100km before so I am interested to see what that feels like. My goal is to just enjoy exploring and racing through some new parts of the forest and participating in an event that I’ve never done before.”
He said his training has mostly been ‘cruising’ around the forest.
“I’m just doing as many shuttles as possible. I guess I’m starting to get fit enough to actually do some specific training but mostly just cruising around the forest, throwing in a few hills and trying to ride technically better.”
Emerson's Whaka100 is set to go ahead on 25th October in Rotorua and is one of the toughest MTB Marathons in the Southern Hemisphere. The event showcases some of the best single track in the world.