A Beautiful Ride

On Saturday evening, January 25, 2020, at the Track Cycling World Cup in Milton, Canada, Stefan was given a heart-felt honouring. The announcers welcomed Stefan onto the track to a standing ovation. He rode five laps around his national home track for the first time since the August 30, 2018 injury. As a friend joked later, “Stefan, that was your slowest kilo ever.” And in Stefan’s words, “It was great! I could’ve stayed out there for an hour!”

Thanks to Kris Westwood and ALL Cycling Canada staff who made this beautiful tribute ride possible. In the Canadian Cyclist article, it shares how behind the scenes the ride came to be. Basically Stefan was not expecting to ride the track. And before one knew it, all the pieces fell into place for it to happen. A very pleasant surprise indeed, along with getting a new track suit!

A Place of Possibility and Awesome Support!

For me as a Mom, it was great to see Stefan reunited with his former coach, teammates, and the tremendous Cycling Canada staff support team. As well as how the broader cycling community and many cycling families were all very excited to see Stefan at the track. Everyone’s support of Stefan in so many ways is really appreciated and warm’s the heart!

Reunited with coach Franck Durivaux
Photo Credit: Canadian Cyclist
Reunited with coach Franck Durivaux
Photo Credit: Canadian Cyclist

What is next for Stefan? While, the world is full of possibility. As one door closes another opens. On the Sunday, Stefan was able to shadow a photographer and get a feel of what life is like on the other side of the camera lens. Check out his photos from the Milton World Cup.

 

Thanks again to ALL for your ongoing support!

Photo Credit: Canadian Cyclist

posted by Barbara Ritter

My Track Cycling Career

photo credit: Cycling Canada Instagram Story

It has been over a year now since my crash on August 30, 2018. The road to recovery from a severe traumatic brain injury is long and challenging. Although my recovery is going incredibly well, I still have the final portions of it ahead of me. With that being said, it is with a very heavy heart that I am officially resigning from racing with the Canadian National Track Cycling Team.

The reason for my decision to leave racing, is a matter of my long term health. I want to live a long and healthy life, and racing poses an immeasurable risk, a risk I simply can’t afford to take anymore. All the medical professionals who I’ve worked with since my crash, have strongly advised me not to go back to racing with my long term health being the primary reason.

Racing on the track at the elite level and being in the high-performance environment on a daily basis has truly brought me so much in many areas of my life. All of my training, racing, and the mentality I’ve cultivated throughout it all, has been so instrumental in my recovery. The skills you learn in training and racing go beyond the act of riding a bike, they are applicable to the bigger picture – to life itself. On top of that, racing has taken me all over the world to amazing places, and along the way, given me amazing experiences with amazing people, all of which I am extremely grateful for.

Although my career was relatively short, it was indeed a very rewarding journey. It was very fulfilling, and one that I don’t have any regrets with. My career started in 2010 with the Juventus Cycling Club in Edmonton on the 1978 Commonwealth Games Velodrome at the age of 12. While my interest in track cycling grew, I continued to race on the road, mountain bike, and cyclocross. In January of 2015 I got the opportunity to wear the maple leaf as a junior at Cyclo-Cross World Championships in Tabor, Czech Republic. Later that same year I also represented Canada at the Junior Track Cycling World Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan. I then quickly realized that track sprinting was my strength. One year later in Aigle, Switzerland I became the Junior Kilo World Champion and also won a bronze in the sprint. Later on in that same year at the Pan American Track Championships in Aguascalientes, Mexico I set 2 new junior world records in both the 1 kilometre time trial and the flying 200 metre events. Two years later in the winter of 2018, I won silver in the keirin at the World Cup in Minsk, Belarus. Shortly after, I then competed in the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games for Canada. Being my first multi-sport games, it was truly a special experience for me. My track cycling racing career only spanned 3 years from August 2015 to August 30, 2018. Despite that it was nothing short of incredible, from the people I’ve met, to the knowledge I’ve learned, as well as the experiences I’ve had, all of which I am truly grateful for.

Elk Island Road Ride

Here is a photo of me on a road ride I went on with my Dad before the snow came this fall. Going for rides and spending time in the gym, both of which I am really passionate about, are playing a vital role in my recovery. And as for the next step in my life, the plan is to first fully recover. Then I can honestly say I’m not sure which path I’ll choose or what my future holds in store for me. I’m still young, at 21 years old. I’ve got ideas and I’ve got options. But I’m still undecided as to which way I will go.

I would like to sincerely thank everyone from the bottom of my heart, for  all the support during my career, as well as all the encouragement, thoughts, and prayers for me after my crash. I will always look back at this part of my life very fondly, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. But as this good ride comes to an end, it marks the closing of this chapter in my life as a track sprinter. At the very same time, new doors are opening for me. I find myself entering an exciting time, a renaissance, a new beginning, and I can’t wait to see where it will take me.

All the best,

Stefan

Links to articles relating to my leaving Elite Track Cycling:

Cycling Canada

Canadian Cyclist

7th Month Healing Update

The healing and rehab continues steadily and Stefan is in great health. Today, March 29th, is about 7 months since Stefan’s accident, and as the doctors have said, “The brain heals but it takes time.” Now what has Stefan been up to . . .

The Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital here in Edmonton continues to stand up to its reputation of assisting people in recovery. Stefan is receiving ongoing Occupational and Physiotherapy as an out-patient. This will continue till June and perhaps beyond.

Physiotherapy started Stefan on the CAREN (Computer Assisted Rehabilitation ENvironment). It allows participants to interact with the simulated environment for immediate feedback on performance. There are some pictures below showing Stefan using the various programs to test balance, gait, scanning and the brain all at once – very cool! We are grateful to have access to this therapy.

Sports continue to be a big part of Stefan’s recovery, like dribbling the basketball with the left hand, practicing setting the volleyball, continued focus on weight lifting form, and playing table tennis and badminton. Every now and again he tests out his running. Spinning on the bike is still a major part of rehab. And Stefan was super happy when in early March he could once again do a pistol squat on both sides (one legged squat while holding the other leg forward). And the unsung hero of recovery is rest. The brain needs breaks throughout the day and good sleep habits. Stefan has incorporated rest (aka naps) into his day more regularly. It has helped tremendously.

Stefan’s thoughts on healing:

 “I feel like I have been given a second chance, and happy for every day! Thanks everyone for your ongoing support.“

We are very grateful for the visitors who have come through our house and the continual inquires and prayers for Stefan.

With much Love and Gratitude,

Barb, Stefan, Norm and Carsten

 

Caren

3rd Month Healing Update

picture taken on December 4th, 2018

Stefan’s brain injury and body continues to heal daily in small, stable, and steady ways. We continue to see subtle improvements in vision, voice, memory, left arm movement and left leg movement. True to Stefan’s dedication to training as an elite athlete, he uses these skills towards bringing about overall healing within himself. Ask him about the future and he replies that he is excited and positive about what the future holds. It is great to be alive and healing. Ask him about the moustache . . . “It represents how far I have come in my recovery.”

On October 5, 2018 Stefan was transferred from the Royal Alexandra Hospital to the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Brain Injury Recovery in-patient Program. Within two weeks of being in the program, he went from wheelchair to walking independently, including stairs and to being able to eat regular food.

As of November 30, 2018 (the three month mark since the accident), Stefan was discharged from the Glenrose in-patient Program. He will continue with an out-patient rehabilitation program at the Glenrose. We are grateful to have access and provincial health care coverage to such a supportive program here in our city.

Now at home full-time, Stefan has included almost daily spin training on his road bike, and he says it feels amazing to be back in the saddle. A shout out to Cycling Canada for shipping the bike back to Edmonton and to AVRA “Argyll Velodrome Racing Academy” for supplying the LeMond trainer.

Stefan continues to be truly grateful for all the love, prayers and support sent his way. We as a family are also very grateful.

Merry Christmas 🎄 and Best Wishes in the New Year 🎉

With much love and gratitude,

Stefan, Barb, Norm and Carsten

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21 Day Stefan Karl Ritter Healing Prayer

Healing from a brain injury is an unknown journey. In the unknown lies unlimited potential. Out of unlimited potential arises the creation of a new possibility. We invite you to participate in Stefan Karl Ritter’s healing journey by praying/asking the 21 Day Stefan Karl Ritter Healing Prayer below. With love, gratitude and blessings, The Ritter Family.

Healing Update as of December 21, 2018

Healing Update as of October 1, 2018

As human beings we each have been given unlimited potential. This potential is accessed

  1. through purposeful and focused prayers, thoughts, and intentions
  2. accompanied by a deep desire and passion
  3. and then these prayers, thoughts and intentions are released – – let go – – set free. Meaning we no longer interfere by setting a prescribed expected outcome; instead we allow the miracle to unfold like watching a young child grow and flower.

It is a paradox but this is how miracles happen. When applied on a daily basis (ie. intentions set, passion applied and then released) miracles result.

For the next 21 days, beginning Sunday, September 9 to to Sunday, September 30, we ask people who feel called to do so, to send Stefan Karl Ritter the following daily:

  • if unable to start September 9, please begin on whichever day works for you and continue for 21 days
  • place one hand on your heart
  • breath in calm, peace and love into your heart first
  • once in this space send this calm, peace and love with the following intentions/prayers to Stefan either read or spoken (spoken has more power)

Dear God of my understanding,

  • We pray/ask that Stefan’s body harmoniously balances his blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, breathing rate and oxygen levels to promote the highest healing.
  • We pray/ask that Stefan’s soul continuously calls on God (the ever loving presence of unconditional love, healing and forgiveness which surrounds all of humanity) for healing.
  • We pray/ask that Stefan’s body & brain, soul & will, and spirit & energy all be interwoven and foundationally set within 21 days ending Sunday, September 30th, from which he can further flourish and heal.
  • We pray/ask that Stefan lives a long, healthy, accident free, vibrant and fully bodied capable life unified in body, soul and spirit.
  • We pray/ask that all cyclists when training and competing remain accident free.
  • We pray/ask that all who participate in this 21 day prayer in whichever way they are called, are also blessed with health, happiness and safety.

AMEN

God Bless,

With much love and gratitude

Barbara (mom), Norman (dad) and Carsten (brother)

check out High Performance, High Risks, High Healing

  • We are grateful to all the individuals and spiritual communities around the world praying on Stefan’s behalf.
  • We are grateful that Stefan is receiving amazing care at the Royal Alex ICU in Edmonton.
  • We are grateful to God, the unconditional love that holds all of humanity in love, truth, forgiveness and compassion. Thanks be to God!

 

 

High Performance, High Risk, High Healing

High Performance

From a very young age like about 4 years old, it was quite clear to Norm and I that our son Stefan would become a gifted athlete. It is not something we really shared with others, but it was a deep knowing. In elementary school, one project he completed of his own choosing was a timeline of the Olympic Games. One can sense when you meet Stefan personally that he is destined to become an Olympic Athlete. Not for the medals nor the glory but for the challenge of it all, for the love of the sport, and for curious exploration of what his body, mind, soul, and spirit can do.

Regardless whether or not he ever participates in the Olympics, he is deep within his soul an Olympian.

High Risk

The sport in which Stefan chose to pursue this dream eventually became Track Sprint Cycling. We as parents know the risk of this sport. And yet as parents of a gifted athlete in a risky sport, we were not about to prevent Stefan from pursuing his dream, and have always given Stefan our full support all the way. Since mid June of 2017, Stefan has been involved in four crashes: two in training and two in competition. This last crash on August 30, 2018 in Aguascalientes, Mexico during the Pan American Track Championship’s Keirin race was by far the most serious. 

High Healing

Stefan is now in the most Olympian healing of his life. He is currently in ICU in Edmonton, Alberta recovering from the head injury. There is no doubt in our minds as parents that Stefan wants to heal, and we have personally witnessed this day after day since the accident. And in particular today, Sunday, September 9, 2018. And if you have been following Stefan and his cycling career and also want to see him heal, and feel called, we ask for your prayers/thoughts/intentions in the following way:

21 Day Stefan Karl Ritter Healing Prayer

Healing from a brain injury is an unknown journey. In the unknown lies unlimited potential. Out of unlimited potential arises the creation of a new possibility. We invite you to participate in Stefan Karl Ritter’s healing journey by praying/asking the 21 Day Stefan Karl Ritter Healing Prayer below. With love, gratitude and blessings, The Ritter Family.

As human beings we each have been given unlimited potential. This potential is accessed

  1. through purposeful and focused prayers, thoughts, and intentions
  2. accompanied by a deep desire and passion
  3. and then these prayers, thoughts and intentions are released – – let go – – set free. Meaning we no longer interfere by setting a prescribed expected outcome; instead we allow the miracle to unfold like watching a young child grow and flower.

It is a paradox but this is how miracles happen. When applied on a daily basis (ie. intentions set, passion applied and then released) miracles result.

For the next 21 days, beginning Sunday, September 9 to to Sunday, September 30, we ask people who feel called to do so, to send Stefan Karl Ritter the following daily:

  • if unable to start September 9, please begin on whichever day works for you and continue for 21 days
  • place one hand on your heart
  • breath in calm, peace and love into your heart first
  • once in this space send this calm, peace and love with the following intentions/prayers to Stefan either read or spoken (spoken has more power)

Dear God of my understanding,

  • We pray/ask that Stefan’s body harmoniously balances his blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, breathing rate and oxygen levels to promote the highest healing.
  • We pray/ask that Stefan’s soul continuously calls on God (the ever loving presence of unconditional love, healing and forgiveness which surrounds all of humanity) for healing.
  • We pray/ask that Stefan’s body & brain, soul & will, and spirit & energy all be interwoven and foundationally set within 21 days ending Sunday, September 30th, from which he can further flourish and heal.
  • We pray/ask that Stefan lives a long, healthy, accident free, vibrant and fully bodied capable life unified in body, soul and spirit.
  • We pray/ask that all cyclists when training and competing remain accident free.
  • We pray/ask that all who participate in this 21 day prayer in whichever way they are called, are also blessed with health, happiness and safety.

AMEN

God Bless,

With much love and gratitude

Barbara (mom), Norman (dad) and Carsten (brother)

  • We are grateful to all the individuals and spiritual communities around the world praying on Stefan’s behalf.
  • We are grateful that Stefan is receiving amazing care at the Royal Alex ICU in Edmonton.
  • We are grateful to God, the unconditional love that holds all of humanity in love, truth, forgiveness and compassion. Thanks be to God!

Stefan Ritter’s 2017 & Minsk Review

Recovery

As many of you know, June was not my month with two big crashes in Trexlertown PA. These crashes had me sitting on the sidelines for the rest of the summer. However, spending the summer at home was a nice change of pace. Before I knew it, September arrived and my unintentional summer vacation, full of rehab and relaxation, had come to an end. My collarbone and concussion rehab was going very well, so it was time to head back to Milton to start training again. And this time with a new coach – Franck Durivaux.

New Coach

I was really looking forward to working with Franck, as in France he had helped train some of the biggest names in track cycling . . . guys like Pervis, Bauge and D’Almeida. September and October whizzed by, and I was starting to find a little bit of form on the track and in the gym. In early November, I had another small setback. In the final lap of warm up, I was passing a rider coming out of corner four when he decided to swing up without shoulder checking. Always shoulder check! My front wheel got taken out and I hit the deck. A couple of X-rays and concussion protocol tests later it was determined that my head was fine, but I had somehow managed to bend my collarbone. Yes, bend my collarbone and the metal plate that was bolted on to it. After a short period of even more shoulder rehab, I was back – and on the bike. The next week we had some on-track testing and I rode two 10.0 flying 200s. Not bad, but I really wanted to get back under 10 seconds again.

Back Racing Again – Anadia, Portugal

Next up on the calendar, in December, were two UCI C1 races – in Anadia, Portugal and then Grenchen, Switzerland. After a couple days of training it was time to suit up and race. First up for me were the Sprints. I qualified first with a 9.993s 200m; and the two Lithuanians, Lendel and Jonauskas, rounded out the top three. The Sprint tournament was reduced, as only the top eight riders qualified. I made my way through the quarters and semis, racing Patrice, my teammate, and Sam Ligtlee of the Netherlands. I met Lendel in the final. For those who don’t know, Lendel had won the Sprint at the World Cup in Chile one week earlier, besting Dennis Dimitriev, the current Sprint World Champ. It was good competition to say the least. Lendel took the win in two rides straight. Considering it was my first race back, I was pretty happy.

The next day was the Kilo. The last Kilo I had done was at the World Championships in Hong Kong in April, so I was not expecting huge things. After a pretty rough ride, I finished second with a 1:02.7. Not the greatest Kilo ever, but good enough to get on the podium and get much needed points to qualify for the world champs.

It was now time for the Keirin. I drew position one, so I just held the front and razored for three laps, and qualified on to the semis. In the semis, I hesitated (where I should have attacked) right when the bike pulled off; with two laps to go, I was caught three riders high and riding above the blue – I just could not come around. You need to be decisive in Keirin racing! In the 7-12 final I drew position 4, and as soon as the bike pulled off I just went straight to the front, holding the lead all the way till the finish. With a solid three days of racing under my belt, it was time to fly to Switzerland for the next race.

And Then – Grenchen, Switzerland

First up in Switzerland was the Sprint. I qualified second to Sebastian Vigier with a 9.921. After a bye through the 1/8 round, I took Dubchenko to three rides in the quarter finals – winning with probably the best bike throw of my life. Next I was up against Michael D’Almeida. I won the first ride, but made some pretty big tactical errors in the second and third rides; he qualified for the gold final. In the bronze final, I was up against Gregory Bauge, yet another French Olympian medalist, World Champion superstar. Bauge took the first ride, but I managed to get the second with a really late rush, where I just managed to pass him in corner four. Bauge ended up winning the third ride for an all French podium.

In the Keirin, I made it through the first and second rounds without much issue. In the final, I drew fourth position and after the bike pulled off . . . I waited  . . . and waited. After one and a half laps, the three riders ahead of me had not picked up the pace at all – so I went. I got to the front and did not look back. Vigier came flying by, but I held on to second through the finish! A great conclusion to a jam packed week and a half of racing.

World Cup V – Minsk, Belarus
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After a great Christmas break at home, and two weeks of training back on the track in Milton, I flew to Belarus for my Sprint and Keirin World Cup debut! The weather in Minsk was not dissimilar to that of Edmonton – a dry minus 10 degrees, with snow. Our hotel was roughly an 800m walk from the track and along the way was park, a church and a big shopping centre.

Keirin

Four days of training later, and I was warming up for the first round of the Keirin. I drew position five, but made some tactical errors which preempted a direct route to the final. Not the ideal way to start a world cup, but my legs felt great – I just needed to go through the reps now. I drew position five. Again. What luck. Starting at the back, I really only had one option – to rush and get to the front as soon as the bike pulled off. So I did. I made it to the front posthaste, and then just held the front till the end. I had qualified to the semis! In my semi heat I drew position two; as the bike pulled off, there was a big rush and I quickly found myself in fifth position going into corner three. At this point, everyone settled down and the pace slowed, so I launched my counter attack and made it to the front with two laps to go. On the second lap I floated where I could, and then opened the throttle in the last lap, buying my ticket to the Keirin final.

In the final, I found myself beginning in third position. I left a gap, waited one lap, and then I attacked – getting to the front and riding it the exactly as the previous semi. The only difference was that Matthijs Buchli came flying over top of me to take the win. Meanwhile, I went head to head in a race for second place with Lewis Oliva; coming out of corner two on the last lap, I kicked as hard as I could – I knew if I could keep him beside me going into the last corner I should be able to medal. It worked out and I finished second!

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Match Sprint

After about as good of a six hour sleep as you can have, I was up and ready for the sprint tournament. I fueled up with coffee, four slices of rye bread and four eggs, and was off to the velodrome to start warm up. The flying 200’s were the first event of the day, and I was able to warm up on track. Three slightly sketchy warm up efforts later, and I was being pushed up the track to start my 200m TT. I hit all my push-points perfectly in my wind up and came swiftly down the banking and into the sprinters lane. I focussed on being smooth, and riding a clean line. One lap later I looked up and saw my time – 9.820. That was a new pb ( Minsk is pretty much sea level)! I ended up qualifying fourth. This gave me a bye to the 1/8 finals where I raced the legend himself, Theo Boss.

We arrived at the start line with Theo leading it out. The whistle blew and to my surprise Boss took off like a rocket with a full on standing start. All of a sudden the commissaire’s gun fired – it turned out that Boss’ coach had given him a very big illegal push. So we restarted, and to my surprise Boss deployed the same tactic yet again. I chase and he starts to ease up going into corner three, so I let off the gas slightly. On the home straight he swung up to the rail and dumped speed. I had two choices: a smart one, and a not so smart one. Instead of following his wheel and maintaining my position in the rear (smart choice), I chose to take the front. Theo ended up coming around me on the last lap in corner four and that was that. The Dutch rider went on to finish third, after qualifying 13th (quite remarkable in itself), which lifted my spirits slightly – knowing that he had also beaten other faster riders.

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Looking Forward to  . . .

All in all, I came away from the Belarus World Cup quite content (second in the Keirin and ninth in the Sprint) with where I had come from since summer. Now, looking forward to the next two big events on my calendar: The 2018 Track Cycling World Championships in Apeldoorn Netherlands (March), and the 2018 Commonwealth Games (April) in Gold Coast Australia! But first, back to Milton to put in another training block.

Till next time,

Stefan

 

 

2017 Canadian Nationals & World Cup III Milton

Due to the crash on July 1, 2017, Stefan did not participate in the 2017 Canadian Nationals (September 28 to 30, 2017) nor in the World Cup III  (December 1 to 3, 2017). Both races were held at the Mattamy Velodrome in Milton, Ontario, which is the home training centre for Canadian Track Cyclists.

Good News however, although not able to race, Stefan did return backing to training in Milton in September. And he was able to enjoy watching both Canadian Nationals and World Cup III races with fellow Edmonton Juventus Club members.

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posted by Barbara Ritter

2nd Crash, Healing Now

On Saturday, July 1, 2017 during the Flying 200m at Trexlertown, Stefan crashed when his front wheel hit the sponge in corner 4. The result was a concussion and broken collarbone.Thankfully, his recovery is progressing well!

2nd crash TrexlertownAs parents, we are so grateful to have him home and for him to be able to convalesce here in Edmonton with us. Seeing Stefan come through those security doors at the airport on July 4th, head hanging slightly and arm in a sling, was a touching moment for me as a mother.

Thanks to Cycling Canada Strength Coach Brendan Murphy for his care and bringing Stefan back to Milton, Ontario safely. Thanks to Lehigh Valley Hospital for their care in monitoring the concussion and to Dr. Neal Stansbury for surgical repair of the collarbone. Thanks also to the Cycling Canada Team and Medical staff, Dr. Eillot in particular, for their ongoing monitoring.

posted by Barbara Ritter

 

 

75 km/h Road Rash

Ever wonder what it looks like to hit the deck at 75 km/h on a concrete track? Well this is the aftermath. Thankfully road rash is the extent of my injuries.

Stefan Ritter

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On Tuesday, June 13th, Stefan crashed during motor drop training. He is recovering well and is out of the hospital now. Thank you to the staff from Cycling Canada and Leigh Valley Hospital for caring after him these past few days. As parents, we were glad to know he was in good hands! See comments to his instagram post here.

posted by Barbara Ritter