Cycling hero honoured

Manawatu man Matthijs van Wagtendonk was honoured with the Official Long Service Volunteer of the year award at the Bike NZ Road and Track AGM and awards dinner in Christchurch last weekend.

Matt came to Manawatu seven years ago from Te Awamutu, with an existing passion in cycling, he immediately became involved in cycling administration.

He organises regular graded club rides, weekly individual time trial events, and has become the driving force behind the highly-successful Novice Tour, one of the premier events for under-17 riders in New Zealand.

He has also organised road cycling centre events in Palmerston North and other clubs, Bike Manawatu's successful Feilding Festival of Cycling and was one of the helpers every day for the New Zealand Cycle Classic men's tour and the NZCT women's tour.

He exhibits a quiet but visionary leadership style and gently co-opts his band of volunteers to achieve the team's outcomes with a minimum of fuss, seeking no accolades for his efforts and time.

During his time in Manawatu he attended a commissaires course so he could provide technical direction for competitive cycling and his skills have been widely used around age group events in the North Island.

While schools cycling in the Manawatu has been the preserve of a few select schools, Wagtendonk saw an opportunity to concentrate the efforts of the schools who were largely operating independently.

Manawatu now has a large and inclusive single school cycling programme thanks to his efforts and vision. As a result, schools cycling in Manawatu has grown significantly and continues to do so.

Bike Manawatu is reaping the rewards of his efforts with five Manawatu junior riders selected to represent New Zealand in 2011 and three juniors this year.

Wagtendonk's long-term commitment, drive and energy to cycling in Manawatu is nothing short of outstanding.

His passion for the sport is unsurpassed and he is without doubt one of the region's unsung heroes.

Manawatu Standard