The death of a cyclist struck by a car on the way home from a morning ride in Ballina has left the cycling community in mourning.
Hans Battaerd, 59, was riding north along the Pacific Highway on Wednesday morning when he was hit by a Mitsubishi Outlander near the Tamarind Drive overpass, police said.
The driver, an 81-year-old man, was taken to Ballina Hospital for mandatory blood and urine testing and has not been charged. Police have appealed for witnesses to come forward.
Battaerd’s death caused an outpouring of tributes on social media, with the renowned cyclist and triathlete remembered as a loving family man.
He worked part-time at The Bicycle Emporium and was a member of the Ballina Masters Cycling Club, which posted a message on Facebook mourning the death of “one of our own”.
“It is with great sadness that we report the loss of one of our own, Hans Battaerd. Passionate cyclist and triathlete, fellow rider, member of the Ballina Masters Cycling Club.
“Hans was killed by a motorist on his way home from a group ride [on Wednesday] morning.
“He died doing what he loved, but he shouldn’t have died,” the club said.
Battaerd competed nationally and internationally at numerous triathlons and cycling events. As recently as last weekend, he clocked the fastest time in a race with his cycling club.
Close friend Bob Scott said Battaerd was “a beautiful, kind and loving spirit, had an amazing wide smile which was infectious and could cheer any day.” Scott will remember him as “a true mate” who loved the outdoors and adored his wife, Cheryl, and his children. “He would always be there to help if there was a job to be done or even if you needed a push up a hill on your bike,” said Scott.
Another friend, Grant Giles, said he felt “deeply saddened, heavy hearted and affected much more profoundly by his presence than I had realised”.
“I guess it’s a case of we never really fully understand how others affect us until they are no longer with us,” Giles wrote on Facebook.
Battaerd had recently moved up to the NSW Far North Coast after living on the South Coast.
He was influential in founding the Illawarra Triathlon Club in 1988, where he mentored many triathletes over the years. In 2004 he was decorated with a life membership at the club.
Many people recalled competing against him over the years, and losing.
“I remember racing him as a kid in [the] early 90s. You could always tell how good your ride was depending on how close you could get to Hans,” one man wrote.
A fellow competitor said Battaerd “set the standard for my age group”.
“Thought I won an Australian age group title one year, only to find out Hans was that far in front I never saw him!”
Another man remembered his endurance and strength on the bike: “Competed with Hans in many triathlons in the 80s and 90s – one of the strongest cyclists I have ever seen.”