A LARGS man has paid an emotional tribute to the 'unknown hero' who gave him the gift of life - and paved the way for him to go on and win national and international cycling honours.

Steve Donaldson recovered from a heart transplant to go on and represent the Great Britain transplant cycling team.

He's now been recognised with a prestigious award at the AGM of Cycling Scotland, the sport's Scottish governing body.

A strong cyclist as a youngster, Steve first suffered chest pains aged 18, but it wasn’t until 2010, aged 48, that he received successful heart transplant surgery.

At Scottish Cycling's AGM this week, Steve was awarded the Scottish Cycling Badge of Honour, the highest accolade Scottish Cycling can award.

Upon receiving the award, Steve said: "I am completely gobsmacked. To receive this prestigious honour is totally out of this world. It is unbeliveable, and I would really like to thank everyone for this prestigious award.

Largs and Millport Weekly News:

"I would like to thank Fullarton Wheelers who dragged me out and got me fit and made me fall in love with cycling again. I would also like to thank the GB Transplant Cycling team who gave me the opportunity to travel the world, ride my bike, and represent Great Britain at international evenets and meet some truly extraordinary people.

"I would like to thank the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank for putting me back together, and they continually look after me.

"And I would like to make a special thank you to an unknown hero - someone who said 'yes' to an organ donation, and without that gift of life I would not be here, and for that I am truly, truly thankful.

"I am following the best advice I have ever been given from my late wife Linda which is to go out, ride bike and have fun, and my carpe diem way of life has inspired others to do things that they might have been otherwise putting off.

"Thank you so much for the prestigious award, safe cycling and take care."

Steve contracted a virus which weakened his heart muscle in 1981 which, he thought, had killed off his competitive cycling career.

Largs and Millport Weekly News:

In 2010, things had got progressively worse and he required a heart transplant.

The former IBM worker could hardly walk two metres let alone even dream of taking part in cycling challenges once again.

However, Steve slowly managed to re-gain his confidence on the saddle, and joined the Fullarton Wheelers cycling group in Irvine.

As a promising teen cyclist, Steve was a member of Glasgow United Cycling Club, and had even beaten Robert Millar, Britain’s most successful road cyclist prior to Bradley Wiggins.

His professional cycling future looked bright.

Steve said: “I was only 18 when I contracted the virus and it killed my cycling career. I honestly never imagined that I could be back in a position to win cycling honours. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for my donor.

“Things deteriorated around 2010 and I was told I needed a heart transplant. The virus had affected my heart muscle which had suffered damage.

“A transplant isn’t a cure - it is a semi-fix. It is a better set of problems. You have a choice of death or transplant.

"I still have various issues and have to take medication every day. Your immune system is wiped out, and you don’t want your body to reject the organ it has been transplanted with.

"It is now a better set of problems, and has given me a better quality of life.

“I never thought I would get back on a saddle, and now I am doing things I used to dream about. Friends in the Fullarton Wheelers tell me that I am living the dream. I am now doing the dream, and grabbing life with both hands and getting on with it.

“It is a fantastic gift that I have been given, and my biggest hero is my donor. I don’t know who it is but that is my hero. If you want to be a donor, please sign up to the donor register.”

Steve is originally from Glasgow, and lived in Bishopton before moving to the Largs area in 2007, working as a PC computer test engineer.

“I think it shows that anything is possible," he added.

"I didn’t think I would ever get back on a bike again, and I could barely walk a short distance. To have been cardiac rehab to now doing this is unbelievable.”

A Scottish Cycling spokesperson said: "An inspirational figure, both to those who know him personally, and those who simply know his story, Steve is a kind and extremely generous man who supports cycling extensively in Ayrshire and the Southwest.

"Steve has gone on to inspire many through his rehabilitation efforts, aided by Fullarton Wheelers getting him back on his bike, before going onto represent the GB Transplant Cycling team and supporting countless charity rides."