Chris Dawson Excited For European Games As He Continues Olympic Qualification Journey

Chris Dawson ahead of the 2023 European Games (Image: Sportsfile)

For Chris Dawson, a first major international games with Team Ireland is the product of many a long winter night training.

Focusing on cross-country mountain biking this season, Dawson is in Poland with Team Ireland for the European Games.

The multi-sport European Games is run by the European Olympic Committees and will see approximately 7000 athletes from 48 countries take part in the event between 20 June and 2 July. The Olympic Federation of Ireland will be represented by approximately 120 athletes across seventeen sports.

A multi-discipline star, Dawson has a found a home in the adrenaline-fuelled world of cross-country, picking up major results in international UCI races this season and is targeting not only a strong showing at the European Games - but a decisive UCI World Championships performance.

Chris Dawson said:

"I'm delighted to be with Team Ireland in the European Games. I haven't done a big level championship event with Ireland for cross-country cycling yet. I think the Commonwealth Games last year with Team NI, but this is my first international call-out with Ireland. I'm really looking forward to it, my form is good so I'm excited to get going now."

Pending selection for the UCI World Championships in Glasgow from August 3-13th, Dawson knows what's at stake when he takes to the start grid.

With just over a year until the 2024 Olympics, the Belfast rider knows that he can potentially book a seat on the plane to Paris with a strong performance. 

Dawson said: 

"For me this year it's more about UCI points for grid position. In terms of Olympic qualification, we can only qualify this year with me finishing well in the UCI World Championships and it relies heavily on where other riders finish. The Olympics qualification process is quite complicated."
"The first 19 ranked nations in the world get positions, then the top two riders in the World Championships that fall from outside the top 19 ranked nations also get a place. It depends what countries are in the top 19 and what riders that good that fall outside that list and where they finish in the World Championships. In theory, if I get a good result at Worlds and I'm one of those two riders, I can win a spot for Ireland at the Olympics. It's definitely a season goal for me and European Games will be a stepping stone for that."

A talented rider, Dawson has previously focused on Cyclo-cross, road racing and e-sports, but since last season it's been tunnel vision for cross-country. 

Beginning his Olympic journey proper this season as qualification comes into focus, Dawson has focused on some UCI ranked races to pick up points for his world ranking.

And although he picked up some strong results in Portugal, Serbia and some positive performances in UCI World Cups in recent weeks, Dawson knows his season has been building towards the coming weeks. 

Dawson said: 

"It's been really good (this season). Me and my wife set up Dawson Racing which is essentially my own team with my own sponsors, and it means I can be quite flexible with my racing and pick races that suit me. I got a podium finish with my first UCI race in Portugal - a Class 1 event. I went over to Serbia to do a few races and got three podiums and I think 110 UCI points - which massively helped my world ranking." 
"I've been building with a lot of training for the European Games and then raced two UCI World Cup rounds (in recent weeks), but the World Cup rounds are tough with positioning - I start quite far down the grid. But the performances there have been encouraging, I've improved on my results from last year. The start of the season has been going well, the last few months are all tapered towards building for Worlds in Glasgow should I get selected."
"It's going to be great to travel over with Team Ireland and have that team atmosphere. I was down in Dublin collecting kit and it was cool to see the infrastructure that Team Ireland has in terms of organisation and the size of the team that they're sending across all of the different sports as well. It will be cool to experience that."

Dawson is in action in the men's cross country race scheduled for 1.15 pm on Sunday, June 25th. More information on the event is available here.