Former Ironman champion Jo Lawn has made an impassioned plea for peace on the roads, as world-class triathlete Terenzo Bozzone recovers from a cycling accident in Auckland Hospital.
Bozzone, 33, was training on the roads around Kumeu in west Auckland on Tuesday afternoon, when he collided with a logging truck. Witnesses claim the driver stopped to check on the athlete, before speeding off.
Police are now searching for that driver. Bozzone is in a stable condition, with facial and head injuries, and concussion.
"For the whole cycling and triathlon community, it's just shocking," said Lawn, a seven-time Ironman NZ champion, who raced alongside Bozzone for much of her career.
"Touch wood, I've retired and made it through, and the time I spend on the road now is a lot shorter.
"But trucks are actually a big problem. I know drivers have a tight schedule, but it's really scary out there on our little bike, with our skin and little lycra."
Lawn, 44, quit triathlon/Ironman competition in 2014 and gave birth to a daughter soon afterwards. These days, she lives at Omaha, north of Auckland, and rarely ventures out onto the road on her bike.
"Traffic is getting busier and that's part of the reason I moved away from Auckland," she says. "Trucks have got to do their things and we've got to do our things - I don't know what the answer is for both of us to be happy on the roads.
"I travelled the world racing for 10-15 years - I was a cyclist before triathlon. I spent a lot of time in Europe and a lot of time in the States, and there's just this mutual understanding."
Lawn insists her perspective changed when she became a mother - she was no longer prepared to risk her life on the roads as she had done previously.
"It was two-and-a-half years before I went out on my bike and it's just so gut-wrenching when you're a mother - or a father, as Terenzo is," she says.
"There are many, many, many triathletes out there who have families and wonder if it's worth it.
"Terenzo is not just a professional triathlete - and a phenomenal one at that - but he's a dad. He's out there doing his job, just as the car drivers and truck drivers are, and everyone wants to get home safe."
Lawn called for tougher penalties - even jail-time - to make careless drivers think twice before dicing with cyclists.
Bozzone has won 37 international titles, including five world titles over various distances, but his breakthrough victory - in record time - at this year's Ironman NZ race in Taupo suggested he was about to step up to another level.
The world championship at Kona, Hawaii was an obvious target.
"That was a huge step for Terenzo," says Lawn. "He finally found the key and was really prepared, and who's to say he still won't have it.
"It's shocking and terrible, but sometimes athletes come back stronger and smarter.
"I know Terrenzo will have HUGE support, not just in New Zealand, but he is famous around the world.
"He'll rise up, he's a champion."
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