Doc­tor rides for healthy hearts


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, eight­day 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.’’

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 ... 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.’’

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.

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.’’

Com­ing sec­ond in the fi­nal cri­terium topped off a chal­leng­ing week for a wor­thy cause.


Welling­ton doc­tor Matt Web­ber raced the Tour of New Zealand.

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