Your Healthcare Connection: Two Olympia Cyclists Travel the Road to Health


olympia cycling team
Cindy Medlin (second from right) poses with other members of the Oly Ortho cycling team.

Competitive cycling is exciting.  Images of the Tour de France, riders whizzing by at unreal speeds, snazzy matching jerseys and epic crashes come to mind.  And while we might not be in the hills of France, southwest Washington has its fair share of excellent cycling routes as well as top cyclists.

Many of them ride with the Olympia Orthopaedic Associates Cycling Team, a group of individuals who dedicate themselves to competitive racing and the education and mentoring of new cyclists.  The team competes in road, mountain, track and cyclo-cross racing and includes men and women from all walks of life and levels of experience.  One thing they all have in common, however, is a need to keep in top physical condition, free from injury that might keep them on the sidelines.

However, injuries and accidents do occur and when they do, the team members can look to their sponsor, Oly Ortho, for top notch care tailored to an athlete’s needs.  You see, the doctors at Oly Ortho are unique – many are top performing athletes themselves and truly understand the intense demands placed upon an athlete’s body as well as the need for complete, and fast, healing in order to return to competition.

Two such athletes are Cindy Medlin and Katie Kolan.  Both of these women ride with the cycling team and both have benefitted from the expertise at OOA.  While their paths to cycling, and healing, are very different, what they have in common is a trust in their care team at Oly Ortho to get them healthy and back in the saddle.

Cindy Medlin was a runner.  From an early age, she loved to run, and became a highly competitive distance runner, even completing the 2003 Boston Marathon.  She was a runner through and through.  Until her knees, and her doctor, told her “Cindy – enough.”

Medlin’s first inkling that there was a problem came after an injury while the Army veteran was deployed in Iraq.   Despite the pain, she continued to run, nursing her right knee as much as possible.  When it became too much, she saw her doctor who operated, cleaning up her meniscus.  She ran on, but it wasn’t long until her left knee began to hurt, too.

olympia cycling team
While Katie Kolan’s interest began on the road, her passion is for cyclo-cross.

By this time, it was 2005 and she’d retired from the military.  She was referred to Olympia Orthopaedics Associates’ Dr. Thomas Helpenstell for a serious look at her knee problems.  He was a familiar face to Medlin.  Dr. Helpenstell is an avid runner himself, but also a triathlete, very familiar with biking and swimming.  Medlin knew him from her gym and was immediately reassured that he’d understand her desire to “get better and keep running,” she recalls.

However, the damage in her knees, along with advanced arthritis, all indicated one thing.  Running was out.  “After we chatted a bit, he just looked at me,” recalls Medlin, “and said, ‘Cindy, you need to think about doing something other than running.’”   That “other” thing was biking.

Medlin began taking indoor spin classes, but missed the outdoor experience she loved from running.  During her physical therapy sessions with Oly Ortho’s Diana Roberts, also a marathoner and Ironman triathlete, Roberts suggested the OOA cycling team.

Medlin began training with the team and was hooked.  The competitive nature in her loved the intensity of the group, but the camaraderie was her favorite part.  “The women on the team were so inspirational.  They have so much knowledge and are so skilled.  They have taught me so much in a short time,” says Medlin.  For now, she is an official “fan” as she trains with the team and increases her endurance.  She aims to be a member next season.

But how could she give up a lifelong love of running?  “Dr. Helpenstell knew I needed the science behind what was happening to my knee, and that I needed to understand it, or I was never going to stop running,” she explains.  “He made sure that I understood – he focused on educating me – so that together we could make the best choices for my health.”

Katie Kolan has always biked.  She started in college because, “it was extremely efficient and I was poor,” she remembers with a smile.  However, her casual biking spawned a love of the sport that has landed her as a member of the Olympia Orthopaedic’s Associates Cycling Team.  While she began riding on the road, her interest lies in cylco-cross.

The sport is not new, with roots dating back over 100 years.  However, its popularity is growing as a sport.  Cyclo-cross combines the high speeds of track racing with the off-road nature of mountain biking.  All while the rider encounters obstacles requiring them to dismount and carry their bike in order to cross them.  The terrain of a cyclo-cross course can include grass, sand, rock, mud, fences, and much more.

olympia cycling team
The OOA cycling team competes in road, mountain, track and cyclo-cross (shown here) racing.

Kolan dove into her training with gusto.  However, it was over almost before it began.  On one of her first training rides, she hit a patch of sand in Olympia’s Millersylvania State Park and her tire skidded out from under her.  She flew from her bike, colliding with a nearby picnic table.  “I realized immediately that something was not right,” she recalls.

That “something” was her arm, broken above the wrist.  She was referred to Dr. Kurt Anderson at Oly Ortho who immediately scheduled surgery.  Kolan now sports a great story, an awesome scar, and some serious screws in her arm.  Despite the serious nature of the break, Kolan intends to be back on the bike this coming fall with the Cyclo-cross team.

You see, her team at OOA, including Dr. Anderson and Hand Therapist Kate Cisco, understood her competitive drive and desire to be back in the saddle.  “Despite the mess I was in, walking down that hallway [at OOA’s Westside Clinic], was really cool.  Seeing the bike on the wall, knowing that Dr. Anderson is a mountain biker too,” explains Kolan, “I just knew I was in good hands.”

From initial consult through PT exercises, the full team took Kolan’s values and lifestyle into consideration, creating a custom approach that helped her healing progress quickly and effectively.  “It was great to be a part of a system that really works.  I was motivated to heal and my motivation combined with their care and expertise has landed me here today, ready to ride again next season.”

For more information on the Olympia Orthopaedics Cycling Team visit the team webpage.


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