For three to six months Steven was unable to move or even speak, and some thought he might never walk again. But the recovery process did begin. “I proved them wrong”. Steven began using a recumbent bike for physical therapy and by 2010; he was competing in the UCI Para-cycling World Championships. He went on to compete in the 2012 London Paralympic games, and in March this year, BMC welcomed him on board as a sponsored rider for the UCI Para-cycling World Championships.

We caught up with him to ask a few questions.

Hi Steven, its great to be talking with you. We’ve given the readers a brief rundown of your incredible life story so far, would you like to fill in the gaps?
Well, let’s see…I enlisted in the US Navy and after two years, I was chosen for the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis. There I got my BS in Naval Architecture and my Commission in the Navy. I spent five years in Japan, made three trips to the Gulf (including 9-11), got my MS in Systems Engineering, and then I returned to San Diego. I had just assumed duties as Weapons Officer when that fateful day in October 2006 rolled around.

The stroke hit me hard. I lived alone and it was 14 hours until my co-worker, Chris Tallon found me. { Worthy of Note: I couldn’t use my right arm or leg, couldn’t walk or talk, and the stroke messed with my brain, but I immediately started working on getting better. }I couldn’t use my right arm or leg, couldn’t walk or talk, and the stroke messed with my brain, but I immediately started working on getting better. I spent the next 3 months in hospital and the next 2 years visiting one on an outpatient basis. During those 2 years, I was introduced to a pretty basic, recumbent bike and I loved it. I progressed quickly to a faster recumbent, and later advanced to an upright trike (which I ride today) from England. The rest is history.

Where did the idea come from that cycling could help in your recovery, and what was that process like?
Well, all of the therapists recommended some type of physical activity and after having a stroke, recumbent riding seemed a natural fit. I started off using it for recreation and recovery about twice a week for an hour, and I was dead tired. But the more I rode, the more my muscle mass went up and the fat went down (I was 165lbs before the stroke and 135lbs after). Eventually, I moved to a Catrike 700 and to training about 2 hours a day, 4 days a week. My girlfriend, Sara Settle (she is a PT and an absolutely wonderful person) and all my therapists would comment on how much the recumbent had improved my walking and stride. The confidence and encouragement I felt when I rode, coupled with my competitive nature, led me to order my first upright trike from England.

Were you a competitive athlete before the stroke?
Actually, I had just raced in my first bicycle race, the Jamestown Classic. I was also sort-of training (in what little time the Navy gave me) with the San Diego Bicycle Club. I was looking forward to racing.

Do you think your experiences in the Navy have helped in your attitude towards your recovery and ongoing training at all?
Absolutely! That and my mother raising me right. I’m always early, give more than is necessary, never give up, and never let anyone see me upset. It definitely helped with recovery and ongoing training.

Being a crewmember on a naval ship is quite a contrast to becoming a competitor at the 2012 London Paralympics, or is it? What was that like?
Being in the Navy, I worked long hours and lived in semi-small quarters. It’s actually nothing like the Paralympics. We were like royalty in London. Our practices were tapered, and I’ll never forget walking into Olympic Stadium for the Opening Ceremonies and hearing the roar. My eyes still get teary.

Tell us about your bike—how has it been modified and who did it?
Basically, the front end and the bike is factory stock (TM01, GF01, and SLR01 for me). inset Steven on his modified granfondo GF01 The back end is the axle supported by two wheels. The axle is in the dropouts and a handful of links to make the chain fit. It’s now a trike. Put a steering dampener (I ride with one hand) and shift the Di2 control all to the left side and you’re ready to go. The first couple of axles I own were made by Geoff Booker. He’s from England, works with steel, and does it as a hobby. Davy Levy of Ti Components made my two racing axles in Portland, OR. Having a back end made of titanium is a blessing let me tell you.

How tough is it getting your bike packed up for flying and travel given its size?
Everyone thinks it’s a chore or task. t’s actually really easy. Disconnect the wheels and the axle and it fits in a normal bike box.

What have you been up to competitively this year and how did you fare?
I got on good and sort-of good:

Redlands Classic 1st TT, RR
Greenville P1, USA, 4th TT, 3nd RR
Defi Montreal, CAN, 4th TT, 1st RR
Fiesta Island Time Trial 1st TT
UCI World Cup, Merano ITA 9th TT, 5th RR
UCI World Cup, Segovia ESP, 3rd TT, 4th RR
National Para-cycling 1st TT, 2nd RR
UCI World Cup, Matane CAN 3rd TT, 5th RR
UCI World Championship Baie-Comeau CAN 5th TT, 7th RR

Any events in particular you really enjoy?
I would have to say… all of them (don’t tell my coach, Sean Burke). Fiesta Island because it is the grassroots of time trials and unbelievable fast. lso the Million Dollar Challenge because of the absolute beauty of the California coast and its 620 miles in 7 days go to a great cause, the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

What would you consider your key strengths as a cyclist?
I would definitely say climbing… The more, the better with me. I actually like it better that descending.

Do you have a favorite training ride?
As climbing is my favorite strength, it would probably be hill repeats…just the masochist in me.

Can you describe your pre-race routine? Do you wear headphones? If so what’s playing?
Drink a bottle of OSMO pre-load, same breakfast as always (granola, dates, banana, OJ, vitamins, and PowerBar supplement), a Beet It shot at about 2 hours and a Beet Elite at about 30 minutes. 30-40 minute warm-up. PowerBar gel at about 5-10 minutes…and we’re off.

My iPod has everything in it. During my warm-up, I have a cycling selection that is mostly up-tempo like Eminem, LFOA, Taylor Swift, Jason Aldeen… just a weird mix.

You are involved with the Wounded Warrior Project and the Challenged Athletes Foundation. Can you tell us more about that?
Well I am a mentor, para-cyclist, Soldier Ride participant, and speaker for WWP. Their purpose is to empower and honor the wounded warrior. To raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members, help injured service members aid and assist each other and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.

The Challenge Athletes Foundation sees me as a mentor, para-cyclist, Million Dollar Challenge participant, and San Diego Triathlon Challenge participant. It is the mission of the Challenged Athletes Foundation to provide opportunities and support to people with physical disabilities so they can pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competitive athletics. The Challenged Athletes Foundation believes that involvement in sports at any level increases self-esteem, encourages independence and enhances quality of life. For the London Games, 87 athletes (33%) were supported by CAF.

Ride2Recovery is a more recent program I’ve joined. They see me as a trainer, a para-cyclist, and a mentor, just like the others. Their goal is to improve the health and wellness of injured veterans by providing a life changing experience that can impact their lives forever.

And when you’re not training or competing, what do you like to do?
Hhhmmm…it’s been so long. I love to cook; Sara and I just finished a course at Culinary Institute of America. We had a great time. There are also fabulous restaurants in San Diego that we love to explore. I also enjoy catching up on movies and TV.

You’re a great role model for athletes and non-athletes alike, how do you see yourself as an ambassador for the sport? Any particular message or ideology?
I’m working to give the trike the name it deserves in the States. There were only three active trike riders 3 years ago. Now, there’s 15 and 3 more on the way. I’ve helped at least 2/3 of those new people get their third wheel. My people still want to ride a bike after they suffer from a stroke, or CP, or some other disability. I want to be here for them. A message…? Don’t ever give up. You may fall, but it’s just a setback.

Thanks for your time Steven, and good luck with everything in the future.