Grate­ful bik­ers help­ing a cause


South Otago builder David Latta will be push­ing ped­als for a cause to­mor­row, when he takes on the sev­enth an­nual West­pac Chop­per Ap­peal bike ride from Queen­stown to In­ver­cargill.

The for­mer Otago rugby cap­tain joins South­lander and Com­mon­wealth Games cy­cling gold medal­list Glenn McLeay and 60 other rid­ers tak­ing part in the na­tion­wide chop­per ap­peal month, to raise funds for their lo­cal res­cue he­li­copter.

It will be the first time Latta has taken part in the 236km event. He will ride along­side his broth­erin-law and for­mer Bal­clutha man Scott Milne of In­ver­cargill, who was in­jured in a hunt­ing trip in Mil­ford Sound 10 years ago, and needed to be flown by he­li­copter to hos­pi­tal.

‘‘He spent a night in the bush while his mate went to get help,’’ Latta said. ’’He prob­a­bly owes his life to the chop­per.’’

Latta said he will never for­get the drive down to Te Anau with Scott’s fa­ther Garry Milne of Bal­clutha, ex­pect­ing the worst but hop­ing for the best.

By some mir­a­cle, although he had a punc­tured lung and bro­ken bones from his overnight or­deal in the bush, Scott sur­vived.

‘‘Do­ing the ride prob­a­bly brings back those mem­o­ries that he wants to for­get, but it’s a way of show­ing gratitude in recog­ni­tion of what they [the res­cue chop­per] did for him, and do, for so many oth­ers.’’

Twenty years later, Scott is heav­ily in­volved in cy­cling and runs a dairy farm near In­ver­cargill, where his wife is in a law firm.

Scott per­suaded Latta to put his name in a bal­lot to be se­lected for the ride.

‘‘I was hop­ing it wouldn’t be me they picked out,’’ he joked. How­ever, he thinks it will be ’’a good brother-in-law thing to do to­gether’’.

No stranger to long dis­tance bike rides - he’s rid­den from Bal­clutha to Wanaka twice in his life - Latta rode the bike sec­tion in the mul­tisport event, Chal­lenge Wanaka, in Fe­bru­ary, which he has done for the last four years. This was in be­tween two knee surg­eries over the last few years.

‘‘Cy­cling is an ideal sport to re­cover from surgery.’’

It was also the ideal stress­re­lease ac­tiv­ity, he said.

The public can sup­port the rid­ers and chop­per trust by do­nat­ing at givealit­ qt2in­vbik­eride.

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