Former Olympic cyclist making 'incredible progress' after brain stem injury, brother says

Dale Stetina was on 1976 and 1980 Olympic teams

BOULDER, Colo. - A former Olympic cyclist and two-time Coors Classic winner, who was injured in a bicycle crash Saturday, remains in an induced coma but has been upgraded to "serious" condition according Boulder Community Hospital. 

The athlete's brother says Dale Stetina is making "incredible progress" recovering from a serious brain stem injury that he suffered while riding in Lefthand Canyon.

Wayne Stetina says his brother, Dale, still hasn't been able to communicate, but has been moving his limbs.

Dale Stetina, a U.S. Bicycling Hall of Famer, was critically injured when he tried to avoid an SUV that pulled into his lane Saturday Afternoon.  The Colorado State Patrol told 7NEWS that Stetina and several other cyclists were eastbound at mile marker 13.8 in Lefthand Canyon when a westbound Jeep Wrangler that had pulled over into an eastbound pullout attempted to re-enter the highway.

“There is a slight curve and some roadside vegetation,” said Trooper Nate Reid. “That may have affected visibility.”

Reid said the other cyclists were able to maneuver around the Jeep, but Stetina wasn’t.  He slammed on his brakes to avoid hitting the jeep and flew over his handlebars.

"He landed on his face," Wayne Stetina said. "He has a serious brain stem injury."

At first, family members worried that Dale might be paralyzed.

"Yesterday, his entire left side seemed to be paralyzed," Wayne said. "Surprisingly, he has regained almost full movement of his left side and there appears to be no paralysis. So that is incredible progress. It's much better than the prognosis the doctors had told us to expect."

Stetina is recovering in Boulder Community Hospital, where family members have been keeping watch.

“Every time he starts to wake up (from the coma) he starts reaching to pull out all the tubes with both hands,” Wayne said. “So that’s a really positive sign and we’re greatly encouraged by that.”

Wayne Stetina told 7NEWS that doctors won’t know Dale’s long-term prognosis until he is taken off the medication that induced his coma.

The 57-year-old -- a member of the 1976 and 1980 U.S. Olympic teams -- won more than 200 domestic and international bike races during a career from 1965 to 1983, according to a biography on the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame's website.

Dale is well known in the bicycling community. Many in that community say the injured cyclist is in their thoughts and prayers.

“Dale and I were competitors,” said Ron Kiefel, a former racer, whose family owns Wheat Ridge Cyclery. “Dale and his brother Wayne were like the big super stars in the late 70s and early 80s in cycling.”

Kiefel told 7NEWS that he and Dale engaged in a “good battle” in the 1983 Coors Classic, a race that Dale won.

“Dale’s won two Coors Classics,” Kiefel said. “He wasn’t the strongest guy.  He didn’t go out and beat you with strength and power.  What he did was get you with his mind. He’s a smart guy.  He races sharp. He sees an opportunity and he takes it. That’s how he usually won.”

Stetina's son Peter is also an Olympic cyclist who has been racing in Italy.

Wayne Stetina said Dale was training so he could ride in the Dolomite Mountains where Peter has been competing.

He said that before the accident, Dale was in great physical shape and that doctors are hopeful that will help him in his recovery.

People who want to follow milestones in the injured cyclist's recover can do so via a twitter feed @dalestetina set up by the family.