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Former Smartwool president Mark Satkiewicz dead at 52

Published August 3, 2020
Along with partners Amy Charity and Ken Benesh, he founded the SBT GRVL event in 2019.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (BRAIN) — Former Smartwool executive and SBT GRVL co-founder Mark Satkiewicz died of suspected cardiac causes while cycling near his home on Saturday.

He was 52.

Satkiewicz is survived by wife Amy and two daughters. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Before he and business partners Amy Charity and Ken Benesh launched the SBT GRVL bike race last year, Satkiewicz spent 10 years with Smartwool merino wool apparel company in Steamboat Springs. In 2006, he was vice president of sales and marketing and became president in 2009.

In 2016, Satkiewicz left Smartwool to join the TOMS footwear company in Los Angeles. A year later, he and his family returned to Steamboat Springs, where Satkiewicz focused on his passion for cycling and the community.

While the SBT GVL was canceled this year due to COVID-19, Charity said Satkiewicz was never fazed by the challenges of pivoting to virtual or planning for the future.

"I've never been around someone more driven with a vision of where he was going and how to get there," she said.

When launched, SBT GRVL boasted a vision that might have seemed like a pipe dream to some — a huge cash purse, parity among the sexes, selling out in its first year — but not to those who knew him well.

"Mark was always moving forward, with a gusto and passion that could at times be awe inducing," said friend Bernie Doering, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Stages Cycling.

Satkiewicz had long been a passionate athlete, competing in triathlon and cycling. Friends said his dedication to training and excellence in sport was simply a reflection of how he approached any situation.

Friend Blair Clark, who is president of Canyon USA, remembers Satkiewicz as a "humble, but world class" athlete.

"Like the Pied Piper, he annually led up to 100 people on a three-day ride from Steamboat Springs to Salt Lake City for the Outdoor Retailer trade show," Clark said. "Then, after working for all week at the show, Mark would turn around and ride back alone in two days."

Clark was one of the first people Satkiewicz approached to sponsor the gravel race in Steamboat Springs. In fact, when Satkiewicz, Charity, and Benesh decided to create a gravel event in Steamboat Springs, they leaned heavily on Satkiewicz's connections in the outdoor industry. Nevertheless, it soon became apparent that it wasn't just Satkiewicz's Rolodex that made him a fit for the event promoter's job.

"He took the cycling industry by storm," Charity said. "He was such an incredible mentor to so many people, to Ken and to me, but to everyone from athletes to media to sponsors. He was so motivated and passionate about what he did, and he had the patience to mentor us and help all of us. He just loved it."

Doering said he was among the many who experienced Satkiewicz's generosity.

"Mark gave his time willingly and selflessly to help and advise many of us in our endeavors," he said. "'Don't worry about it, just do good things' was something he often said."

"In spirit Mark will always be with me on a tough ride or in a vexing business issue, inspiring me to do my best and take care of others along the ride," Clark said.

Satkiewicz at the SBT GRVL start.

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