Father-of-three Eddie Wade believes he owes his life to an expensive bike helmet and more than a little bit of luck.

The three-time Ironman competitor was cycling over the Tongariro River bridge into Turangi at the end of a 45km training ride last Friday morning when he was clipped by the left mudguard of a horse float being towed by a utility.

The 42-year-old prison officer was thrown off his bike, hitting his head on the concrete bridge railing before ending up in a heap on the roadside.

Miraculously he broke no bones and suffered no major injuries, apart from some scrapes and bruises which he said made him look like he had been "sliced down a cheese grater".


He was treated and discharged at Taupo Hospital, and said things could have been a lot worse.

"I bounce pretty well and was so, so lucky."

Mr Wade said his top-of-the-range bike helmet took the full brunt of the impact, which probably saved his life in the first instance.

"If I had hit the bridge an inch higher I would have gone over the top - down a drop of some 20m."

He said by some miracle he fell back on to the narrow walkway, rolling along it several times before ending up on the highway, narrowly missing being struck by a truck-and-trailer unit that was following the horse float.

"It was slow motion and then carnage," he said. "It took a bit to realise what had happened before the pain kicked in and evidently the first thing I asked was whether my bike was okay."

Unfortunately the bike - which included a $6000 frame and a new set of wheels valued at about $4000 - was a total wreck. Mr Wade said the computer must have been ripped off the bike on impact and had not been recovered.

New tri-race gear that he recently bought and was wearing for the first time in preparation for next month's Ironman was also "completely shredded".

Despite the unscheduled break to his training, he is philosophical about the crash and remains optimistic about completing his fourth Ironman.

He said doctors who treated him said things could have been a lot worse if he hadn't been in good physical shape and indicated it would also help with his recovery.

Six years ago a desire to quit smoking and adopt a healthy lifestyle meant Mr Wade lost about 55kg - dropping from 130kg to under 85kg - and he took up long-distance triathlons.

Last year he completed his third Ironman in 12hr 36min, despite walking the final 32km after snapping his patella tendon.

He is reasonably confident that the same determination that saw him cross the finish line last year will take him over again this year.

The biggest problem could be his right knee, which was operated on after last year's Ironman and was injured again in the fall.

"I've put in the training and now just need to maintain that level."

Mr Wade plans to start swim training next week once bandages come off, and he intends to be back on a bike as soon as he is able.

Details of the crash were posted on the Ironman website and Facebook page, and Mr Wade has been humbled by the support, with about half a dozen people contacting him with offers of bikes.

He is hoping his insurance claim will come through in time for him to get a replacement bike for the event on Saturday, March 5.

Turangi police say inquiries into the crash are continuing.