FLC cyclist and Durangoan, Ben Sonntag rode an amazing race in Bend, Oregon last December.
FLC cyclist and Durangoan, Ben Sonntag rode an amazing race in Bend, Oregon last December.

Q: How did you find out about Durango and FLC?

A: 2003 was my most successful season as a Winter triathlete. That spring I went to the bike festival at Riva del Garda, Italy (something like Sea Otter) to meet up with Specialized to sign a contract for the upcoming season. And whom do I get to meet? Ned Overend! He was there to race and present the company and I got to talked to him a bit. That was the very first time I heard about Durango and it took me 4 years to remember his words. In 2007, my first year competing in cycling after switching from skiing and Winter triathlon I made the decision to finish my degree which I started in Anchorage, Alaska on a skiing scholarship. I remembered the meeting with Ned and started looking more into it. That’s how I also found out about FLC and it went from there. 2 months later I was in Durango and started taking classes at FLC

Q: What is the junior biking scene like in Germany? Do they have any solid junior mountain bike programs?

A: Cycling like almost any sports in Germany is organized by clubs. There are a lot of clubs who have there own junior program. Kids get together to train, travel to races….It’s similar to DEVO, which from my understanding is a pretty unique program in the US.

Q: When did you start racing mountain bikes and was there any difference in the junior competition between the US and Germany?

A: I actually didn’t compete in cycling as a junior, but from what I have seen in skiing, I would say in Germany kids are starting to be serious about training and racing a bit earlier. I would say on a junior level there is more competition in Germany and everything is already pretty professional. In my eyes this has pros and cons. A lot of very successful juniors are quitting early because they are burned out before their real career would start. On the other hand often times in the US juniors have to close a big gap once they move in the elite ranks to be competitive internationally.

Q: You are a collegiate champion, what have you won in the college ranks and what else do you wish to accomplish?

A: As for collegiate, I’m at the end of my collegiate carrier. I will graduate this spring, can’t wait!!! As my highlights were winning 3 individual titles, cross country in 2007 and short track and cross country in 2008. I also won 3 team titles with FLC, MTB in 2007 and 2008 and Cyclocross in 2009. Those were for sure my highlights. It’s always fun to win a team title. Outside of collegiate racing there is hardly ever the chance to experience such win as a team.

I really wish I could have won the cyclocross individual title in 2009. I was close, but didn’t make it. It was a big goal of mine leading to that event and it took me a while to get over it! In the end it kept me motivated to work hard on myself over the last couple months.

Q: Who are your cycling and non cycling heros?

A: As I have a different non-cycling background most of my sport heros are cross country skiers. I think Bjoern Daehlie was the one athlete who I remember watching the most and being a real ‘hero’ for me. As for cycling I look up to people who have the consistency to be at the top all season long. As a cross country racer, Julian Absalon of course comes to ones mind. But I’m also looking up to the Swiss, who are so strong as a nation.

Q: You race a pretty stacked season in many of the cycling disciplines, how are you spending your time this preseason training? How do you work around the weather?

A: It feels for me that the weather has been rough this year for cyclists in Durango. It is hard to do your training in such conditions. I think it is important to still do your specific workouts, if you have to even on the ‘evil’ rollers or trainer. But if that’s the case you have to mix things up with other outdoor activities to not burn out before the real season starts. I’m doing a lot of cross country skiing, some running and trying not to get huge in the gym ;). I think especially as a Mtber it is important to be a well rounded athlete. In Mountain biking I think, it’s more than just having the engine and the legs to win! Skills and good core strength are just as important.

Q: Do you have any advice for the DEVO juniors?

A: I keep this short. They should go out and have fun riding their bikes. If they fall in love with the sport and are ambitious about it than they can start to pursue their goals as a racer. But they have to love it! You can only be successful in racing if you have a passion for what you’re doing!

Ben races pro xc for the Cannondale/Mona Vie Team
Ben races pro xc for the Cannondale/Mona Vie Team

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