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17-year-old recovers from traumatic brain injury after mountain bike crash on Floyd Hill

His dad saw two hikers on the bike-only trail, and suspects his son crashed to avoid them. Cayel Holmgren has no memory of the crash.

CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. — When Cayel Holmgren went out for a mountain bike ride with his dad on April 8, he had no idea it would be his last ride for a long time.

The 17-year-old was biking down the Sluice Trail on Floyd Hill – a biking only trail that doesn't allow hikers for safety reasons – and then his memory stops. His father, Brian Holmgren, who was biking behind him, saw two hikers, and then he saw his son lying on the trail unconscious.

"Unfortunately, there was two hikers near the crash site, and there’s speculation that he may have crashed because of that," Brian Holmgren said.

More than a month later, after recovering in the ICU at St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood, and then at Craig Hospital in Englewood, Cayel is back to running and playing golf. But he said he notices a difference in how he thinks.

He's not as patient, and he struggles to filter what he says. 

"I’ve had to learn that the hard way a couple times," Cayel said. "But I’ve started realizing to take a little step break from my phone cause I noticed that phone gives you a lot more vulnerability to say things you don’t actually mean." 

Cayel's memory is also different than before. He forgets what he's saying in the middle of a sentence. It's frustrating, but he said he's learning to give himself grace. That's something new.

"I was so hard on myself with biking," he said. "I always wanted to be the best, do the best, and so even if I’d get a race and I wouldn’t podium, it would ruin my next two days because I was disappointed in myself."

Credit: Photo courtesy of Cayel Holmgren
Cayel Holmgren

The teen had regularly competed at the national level and had planned to make a career out of the sport. Now, he said he doesn't know whether that will be possible but that he's looking at life with a new perspective.

"I was always someone that found the worst in people, found the worst in every situation, and was kind of a person that was down my own path and didn’t let anybody really get in the middle of it," Cayel said. "The fact of letting people help you, and let people love on you when you can’t love back, it really teaches you life lessons of how you should live."

Cayel said he has been taking to the golf course often as he works to find a new way to spend his time.

"I wasn’t a very grateful, thankful person when I did have a lot, and so just kind of opens your eyes to be more of a thankful person," he said.

He has a new perspective but the same competitive edge.

"It’s a win-win if they beat me, then it's 'You’re bullying a kid with a brain injury,'" he said, laughing. "If you win, it’s 'You lost to a kid with a brain injury.'"

More 9NEWS stories by Katie Eastman:

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