It all started with one man and his bicycle.
In the 1984 Olympics, Steve Bauer won a silver medal in men’s road cycling — four years before becoming the first Canadian to win a stage at the Tour de France.
At the time, 15-year-old Ted Kemper was enthralled with Bauer’s skills.
“I remember watching it, and I was fascinated,” said the Bradford West Gwillimbury resident, who is now 50 years old.
“I’ve played all kinds of sports. I’ve always come back to (cycling). It kind of called me back to it at certain points of my life.”
Kemper, also a cancer survivor, recently celebrated his birthday with an 80-kilometre bike race in The Blue Mountains — a shining example of never giving up, despite many obstacles.
Cycling has been a passion of Kemper’s since he was a kid, and he raced seriously in his late 30s to early 40s.
But in 2011, he had a bad crash that resulted in a back injury, and he had to give up cycling. Instead, he started volunteering with a local soccer club.
By 2014, he was given the OK to start cycling again, but he was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer.
“The colon tumor was about a size of a baseball. It went into the liver,” Kemper said. “There was a loonie-sized tumor on the liver.”
In all, he had three surgeries and several rounds of chemo between January and September 2015.
After chemo finished, Kemper and his wife, Laura, went to Hawaii on vacation, and he started cycling training again.
“I was feeling really good when we got back from Hawaii (but) the tumor had started growing again,” he said.
Kemper had another surgery in April 2016 to remove the tumor.
“Since then I’ve been clear,” he said.
Just eight weeks after his last surgery, he did his first century ride, a term for completing 100 miles.
Kemper joined the Newmarket Eagles Cycling Club and started cycling nearly every day and working with a coach to get back in shape. He has competed in races throughout North America.
“That first ride (post-treatment) was great because I was a cancer survivor,” he said. “It’s hard getting back into it after you’ve taken a break. What helped was the excitement of being able to do it.”
But Kemper is modest about his story — just glad to be back on his bike, living life, and dreaming of cycling one day in France.
And he has a message for anyone out there going through a tough time who is looking for inspiration — join a club.
“There’s people in the (Newmarket cycling) club who have similar stories. Maybe it’s not cancer, but there may be people who have been through something,” he said.
“My goal is to do better than the year before. When I was young, it was all about winning. Now I’m just happy to be here.”