Sonntag, 39, died at the scene. The accident happened just after noon Wednesday along La Plata County Road 105 west of the town of Marvel.
A spokesman for the Colorado State Patrol said Sonntag was pedaling northbound when a 1991 Ford pickup truck, going southbound, struck him.
“The pickup truck traveled off the right side of the road,” CSP stated in a news release, “colliding with a fence, continued through a field, and then off an embankment before coming to rest on its right side in Cherry Creek.”
The Colorado State Patrol identified the driver of the pickup as Cordell Schneider. He was transported to the hospital but was not seriously injured.
Speed, said CSP’s Josh Lewis, is being investigated as a possible factor in the incident.
We are crushed. Ben was someone who imbued the cycling community with so much positivity and joy. He was one of our own and our thoughts are with his friends and family.https://t.co/76BPabtkK6
— Fort Lewis College (@FLCDurango) March 5, 2020
“He died doing what he loved,” Sonntag’s girlfriend, Sarah Alsgaard, told the Durango Herald. “What impacted me most about Ben was his perspective on life. Everyone can agree he was a ray of sunshine and was so supportive. I’ve never seen anybody with such a passion for something like he had for biking and life. Ironically, we used to talk about how short life is and how he wanted to make the most of it.”
Sonntag scored several collegiate national titles in mountain biking for Fort Lewis College shortly after moving to the Durango area in 2008. He turned professional after graduating.
According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, 22 bicyclists were killed in 2018 and another 19 in 2019. Colorado has seen double-digit fatalities to cyclists every year since 2011. In 2003, there were only three.
“I’ve ridden that section of Cherry Creek road and that dirt road and haven’t seen any cars,” said Durango’s Todd Wells, a three-time mountain bike Olympian. “A busy ride, you would see maybe four or five cars. I imagine that was the only car he had come in contact with that day on the particular road.”