They Went Out for a Bike Ride. They Never Came Home.

Ben Sonntag, 39

Hometown: Durango, Colorado
Date of Collision: March 4

As a professional mountain biker, Ben Sonntag competed all over the world. But Sonntag’s girlfriend, Sarah Alsgaard, 32, says that off the bike, the German-born cross-country racer “appreciated a simple life.”

“He was known for his bright, inclusive personality, his love of his cats—Karen and Hansi—and his prized espresso machine,” she says. 

Sonntag rode most recently for the Clif Pro Team. He was especially proud of his win at La Ruta de los Conquistadores, a stage race in Costa Rica, in 2010. Sonntag’s friend and competitor, Payson McElveen, recalled hosting Sonntag at his parents’ house in Austin, Texas, for a race once. “My parents loved having him because, unlike other athletes they hosted, Ben would just hang out in the living room and talk to them for hours about anything,” McElveen says. “He was really friendly.”

“I couldn’t help but fall in love with Ben when we met in 2018,” says Alsgaard. “His spontaneous and adventurous personality seamlessly fit with mine.” A month after they met, Ben booked her an international flight to Cyprus, so they wouldn’t be apart while he was racing there. “After that trip, we were basically inseparable until the day he died,” she says. 

Alsgaard says her boyfriend never took life too seriously. Unlike many of his weight-weenie competitors, Sonntag didn’t worry about what he ate. He loved good coffee and bakery stops. “I’ll never forget seeing Ben on his bike, riding toward home with a big grin and, at first glance, a humpback,” she recalls. “With a second take, I could see he had just been to his favorite bakery, and the humpback was a loaf of ciabatta stuffed in his jersey. I still can’t help but look for Ben on his bike when I’m around that side of town.”

On March 4, Sonntag was on a training ride, traveling north on a country road outside Durango, when he was struck head-on by a driver in a pickup truck going “nearly twice” the speed limit, according to the arrest affidavit. Sonntag died at the scene. Twenty-year-old Cordell Schneider was charged with vehicular homicide and reckless driving. On July 17, he pleaded not guilty. A jury trial is scheduled for March 22, 2021. —Micah Ling

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