Wellington 'heart electrician' Matt Webber completes cycling Tour of New Zealand
When Wellington "heart electrician" Matt Webber isn't at work, he's out on his bike.
Webber, a cardiologist and electrophysiologist at Wellington Hospital, has just cycled the South Island leg of the Tour of New Zealand to raise funds for the Heart Foundation.
The tour is a biennial, eight-day cycle event that celebrates cycling, scenery, competition and community on some of New Zealand's best roads. Riders choose to do either the South Island or North Island legs, which run at the same time.
Each of Webber's two specialities require three years' intensive training but he uses the "electrician" label to describe his work to his patients.
"It is probably the best description of what I do really, I modify faulty electrical wiring of the heart," he says.
"I do ablations for fast heart rates, including atrial fibrillation (AF), and implant pacemakers for slow rhythms."
Webber found out about the tour through his local cycling club. Cyclists have the choice of supporting one of several charities, including Life Flight, the Child Cancer Foundation and the Heart Foundation, which Webber says made the decision to enter easy.
"It was kind of a natural link between my job and my sport," he says. "It was an easy choice and it still remains extremely important to raise awareness of heart disease."
He says other aspects of heart conditions, such as AF, are less publicised and "in large parts related to lifestyle choices".
"So if you don't look after yourself ... you've got an increased risk of atrial fibrillation, which is extremely debilitating."
He says the ride was fantastic, despite poor conditions.
There was a sense of camaraderie among the riders, who had a wide range of backgrounds, experience and ability.
The race took place over seven stages averaging 100 kilometres a day. On the final day the two groups met in Wellington for a morning of criterium racing in the grounds of Parliament.
Each day involved around three hours of riding with temperatures averaging between five and 10 degrees Celsius and persistent rain. "But that adds to the drama of it," Webber says.
He has completed many races in the past.
He chose the South Island leg as a way of covering new ground but the weather hindered the sight-seeing. "It's new territory, new spectacular territory," he says.
"We got to ride some of the iconic roads of the country, the problem is we haven't been able to see any of it ... the Crown Range was spectacular but there was no view from the Lindis Pass."
He says coming second in the final criterium topped off a challenging and rewarding week for a worthy cause.