Situated in the midst of the Canadian Prairies, Saskatchewan is one of the flattest provinces – if not the flattest – in the country.
Certainly it’s a far cry from the mountainous terrain of neighbouring Alberta or British Columbia, and so mountain biking doesn’t instantly come to mind when thinking about popular prairie pastimes.
However, local athlete Carson Ritter set out on a journey to pedal-powered prominence – it began in Regina when he was just six-years-old.
“When I was six, I was a pretty rambunctious little child, so my parents threw me in a bunch of sports,” Ritter explained. “I wasn’t big into the team sports, but one of the sports (my parents) put me in was mountain biking, so I actually started right over here at (Douglas Park), I’d be mountain biking a couple times a week and I just built off of that.”
Once hooked, Ritter rode the trails all over the Queen City, but eventually needed to expand to more difficult terrain leading him to places like the trails at Buffalo Pound Provincial Park.
“(Being in Saskatchewan) is definitely a disadvantage because you don’t have the same quality of trails and don’t have those big long climbs,” he said. “But you can still train and you can still drive to Canmore or other places.”
After 11 years and many competitions on a bike Ritter is ready for one of his biggest accomplishments to date – qualifying as a member of Team Saskatchewan for the Canada Summer Games which begin Aug. 6 in Niagara, Ont.
“I’m super excited because I also know everyone that’s going because I train with them on a regular basis,” he said. “It’ll be a really cool experience to meet some new people.”
The Olympic-like atmosphere is something that he is extremely eager to experience.
“It’ll be really awesome seeing the opening ceremony and the closing ceremony,” he said.
“It’s really Canada’s version of the Olympic Games with the opening and closing ceremonies, living in an athletes village,” Team Saskatchewan Chef de Mission Mark Bracken explained.
“Meeting kids from Nunavut, meeting kids from Yukon, P.E.I., all over the country and just one big team coming together to represent the green and white, it’s just a special opportunity for these kids, really a once in a lifetime (opportunity) for most of them.”
Unlike many of the athletes heading to the games, Ritter has more than one sport to compete in, although both are on two wheels.
The 17-year-old is slated to compete in both mountain biking and road cycling.
Road cycling came naturally to Ritter when he was a young teen, one that he finds both calming and challenging.
“Sometimes it’s nice to just be out on the highway by yourself, it’s just you and the road,” he said.
Ritter has pushed himself to serious extremes while training for road cycling, building up his stamina and endurance in the process.
“I was 14-years-old and I didn’t have my learner’s or driver’s licence so it was pretty neat, I could go long (distances) just on my bike,” he explained. “I rode to my cabin one day on my bike, it’s at Kannata Valley at Last Mountain Lake (more than 52 kilometers north of Regina).”
Saskatchewan’s climate doesn’t allow for Ritter or any cycling enthusiast to train year-round on two wheels, so when the snow hits the ground he trades in the chains and spokes for skis and poles.
Now having found a steady routine between his summer and winter sports Ritter has used both to benefit the other.
“Cycling is especially good for skiing because it keeps your fitness up, keeps your cardio good,” he said.