Klaus Sonntag knew something wasn’t right.
It was Wednesday, March 4, and Sonntag had phoned his son, Benjamin, in Durango from Germany. The two talked every day on the phone, but Ben was about to go for a ride and told his father he’d call him when he returned from training.
The call never came, and Sonntag got worried. That’s when he got the call from Sarah Alsgaard that her boyfriend, Klaus’s son, had not returned home.
“It is very difficult to understand it,” Sonntag said at his son’s memorial service in the La Plata County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall. He spoke German, translated in an interview with The Durango Herald by a family member.
About 150 people joined the Sonntag family – including Benjamin’s father, his mother, Irmgard, and his brothers, Patrick and Daniel – for a memorial celebration of Ben Sonntag, who died at age 39 last week in a fatal crash in southwest La Plata County.
Friends, former teammates and community members told stories about racing with Sonntag, a Fort Lewis College graduate and Clif pro team professional mountain biker. Some spoke through tears, others though the joy of fond memories of Sonntag.
He had a joyous spirit through times good and bad – his unparalleled athleticism was often outshone by his infectious attitude, people said.
The Sonntag family had been to Durango before; Klaus said he felt an emptiness in his heart without his son to show him around.
While it’s difficult to comprehend the tragedy of his son’s death, Klaus said the support shown Saturday by the community is good for him and his family.
“We can see all that was lost with Ben,” he said.