Malcolm Saunders is stepping down from Tasam Wheelers. Photo: Simon Bloomberg

Tasman Wheelers president steps down

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One of Nelson and Tasman’s cycling’s longest serving officials is getting off his bike after more than a quarter of a century of helping organise, marshal and promote races around the region.

Malcolm Saunders will be stepping down from the Tasman Wheelers committee at the club’s annual general meeting on Thursday after 24 years as president. It will mark the end of an era for the club which has grown from around 30 riders to 240 during Malcolm’s presidency, to become one of the biggest and most successful clubs in the country.

“The club is in very good heart and has an exciting future with a lot of things to look forward to,” Malcolm says. “We also have a good team coming in with Christine (van Hoppe) as president, so it’s a good time to step aside.”

Malcolm, who cycled “competitively as a youngster in Christchurch”, became involved with Tasman Wheelers soon after it was formed in 1987, taking over from founding president Dave Glover in 1993. Malcolm says cyclists around the region owe a big debt to the “bunch of guys wanted road racing around Nelson and Tasman” and had the enthusiasm and vision to form the Wheelers.

“Eddie Saxon, Richie Howes, the late Les Vincent, Reg Davies, Russell Clementson and Gethyn Filer were all there at the start and they were a good bunch of guys. I came along after they adopted the constitution, so I wasn’t a founding member but I worked with Dave and then took over as president after a few years.”

Malcolm says Tasman Wheelers has grown steadily over the last 24 years, partly as a result of the global increase in popularity of road cycling. However, Malcolm says the club has also played a key role by ensuring that it organises “consistent, good quality racing through some very good territory”.

“We are lucky to have good courses here and we do a good job of handling all the traffic management. Cycling may have become more popular but a lot of clubs in the North Island have still given up because it’s too hard to put these races on.

“We were one of the first clubs to embrace traffic management when it came in and that gave our events a degree of acceptance by the authorities and the public. We have a very good relationship with the Tasman District Council and they know we are doing the right thing – keeping the riders and the traffic safe is a priority.”

Malcolm says he has enjoyed many highlights in the last 24 years, including helping organise the TNL Tour which developed into the biggest tour in the country with around 190 riders. He has also enjoyed seeing the region’s young riders, like Commonwealth Games silver medallist Jack Bauer and pro-tour rider George Bennett, come through the club ranks and go on to succeed in national and international races.

Malcolm is immensely proud of the club’s achievements which he says are a result of a lot of hard work by all the committee members, sponsors, volunteers, parents and “all our wonderful riders”. Now that he will have his weekend’s free, Malcolm is planning to spend more time trout fishing and plans to get his bike out again and do some recreational riding.