For 17 years Rotorua's Winter MTB Series has adapted to be as inclusive as possible.

It is therefore fitting that, in the final year in its current form, the series will include an E Bike race for the first time. The pedal-assisted electric bikes can provide assistance in tougher sections of the trails, such as hills, allowing those who would otherwise be unable to compete to give the series a go.

After this year the series will be replaced by the Rotorua Winter Forest Festival, "a celebration of the forest featuring running and mountain biking events".

One of the people making the most of the new race category is Auckland's Wayne Annan, who had a heart transplant nine months ago and is entered in the E Bike race on Sunday.

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An accomplished swimmer, he had just finished a 6km training swim in April 2015 when he had a heart attack.

"I survived that event, despite the odds, and started to recover. I was swimming again and doing exercise - had completed a few smaller swim events. In October 2016 I had a cardiac arrest in the pool, however was cleared following that with no issues.

"In February 2017 I won an age-group gold medal at the Blue Lake Ocean Swim Series. The following week I went for a check-up and was subsequently admitted to hospital. I kept asking when I could go home, as the following weekend I was doing an event at Lake Okataina. That week they told me I was being referred for a heart transplant," Annan said.

His health quickly deteriorated in the following months and he went through an assessment process for a transplant, which checked whether he was sick enough to require a transplant but strong and fit enough to survive it.

Wayne Annan, pictured with wife Pauline Mills, will participate in the Winter MTB Series E Bike race on Sunday, nine months after receiving a heart transplant. Photo/Supplied
Wayne Annan, pictured with wife Pauline Mills, will participate in the Winter MTB Series E Bike race on Sunday, nine months after receiving a heart transplant. Photo/Supplied

"On September 19 I got a call to tell me that they had a donor heart that may be suitable. I woke up on the 21st with a new heart and feeling well again. I was in hospital for nine days and then went to a special rehab centre at Greenlane Hospital for a few weeks. I began exercise again, gained strength and got well."

Exercise was always a major part of Annan's life, but he cannot run any more because of knee problems and cannot swim because of immune system issues. So he decided to jump on a bike.

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"We got a Magnum Peak Mountain E Bike and I started to use it to ride to and from work. I discovered I could do rides that I [usually] couldn't do as I didn't have the strength.

"I have never done a mountain bike event and want to try it out, and the E Bike allows me to do that, as I would not be strong enough yet to do it without the assistance."

Annan is well aware that without the generosity of organ donors, he would not be here to tell his tale.

"Due to a family who decided to allow their loved one's organs to be donated, I am not only alive but able to fully participate in life. Most people believe if they put donor on their driver's licence that does the job, however that is not the case.

"The family or next-of-kin has the decision at the time that life support is turned off for a person who has been deemed to be brain dead. It is important for those wishing to become a donor to ensure the family are fully aware of that wish and decision so that if the time comes the decision is already made," he said.

• The Winter MTB Series starts on Sunday at 9.25am from the Waipa Mountain Bike car park.