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Remembering Mark Satkiewicz

Friends and fellow cyclists share stories about SBT GRVL co-founder Mark Satkiewicz.

On Saturday, SBT GRVL co-founder Mark Satkiewicz died after suffering a cardiac incident on a bike ride near his home in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Before moving into event production, Satkiewicz worked in the outdoor industry, most recently at both Smartwool and TOM’S. Before that, he spent over a decade at Nike. He was an avid cyclist, a devoted friend, and a mentor to many. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.

On Wednesday, Mark’s family and close friends, in partnership with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, launched the Mark Satkiewicz Memorial Fund. The fund will catalyze Mark’s passion for enabling more kids to develop a lifelong love for outdoor sports and take on new challenges in doing so.

Satkiewicz, Amy Charity, and Ken Benesh founded SBT GRVL in 2019.

Matt Wikstrom — friend and former riding partner 
I was fortunate enough to meet Mark in 2016 when he moved to LA. LA has a great group ride scene, and Mark became quite a regular on the Wednesday Mandeville slugfest and the Saturday NOW + war of attrition. Mark loved the competitive aspect of cycling. He was always looking to improve, get faster, upgrade categories, and just like in his professional life, he was committed to achieving those goals. However, more importantly, Mark just loved to ride his bike. He loved the conversations, the adventure, the camaraderie that bike riding brought. I recall countless hours riding with Mark listening to wonderful stories about his wife Amy, and two daughters, Olivia and Mia. Both of these passions came together in the SBT GRVL event that Mark created. It had world-class competition with first-class hospitality, giving each rider the opportunity to compete but more importantly belong and enjoy the spirit of cycling. Mark was a successful cyclist, an even more successful businessman, and most importantly, a fantastic husband and father. He touched so many people in a positive way, and will be missed deeply.

Ryan Dolan — friend and industry colleague
I first met Mark during an interview for a VP Sales position at Smartwool. His passion for everything he did was contagious. He made me feel so welcome during my first interview and subsequent follow-ups that even though I knew I could not relocate to Steamboat, I still wanted that job. Not necessarily the job but I wanted to work alongside Mark. We stayed in touch over the years and had meals at trade shows and shared miles on the bike. I ended up taking a different position at a different company after I met Mark, and in a discussion that I thought was just in passing I said, ‘I am not starting this new job for almost two months so I am going to train full time and see how well I can do at this next Ironman 70.3.’ Well, the two months passed, and I did the race. I was pretty happy with my time, but the wheels came off the last couple of miles on the run. When I got back to the hotel the first text I had on my phone was from Mark. It said, ‘Nice job at the race…but I would have thought for somebody training full time you could have held it together on the run.’ That was Mark. Always thoughtful. And always challenging you to be better.

Bernie DoeringStages Cycling, longtime friend, former colleague at Nike
Sak came into our lives in the late 90’s. He was hired as a sales analyst in the Nike Chicago office to work for Dan Knisely. I was a sales rep in the group at the time. To come full circle, Dan Knisley now works for me at Stages and both he and his wife Mary came to ride the SBT last year.

It became quickly apparent that Mark was way smarter than most of us at Nike. Because of his young looks, he was nicknamed “the Kid” and it stuck. So much so that Nike Senior Management called him that and it was used for his name in all the sales publications especially when he was awarded Sales Rep of the year. It annoyed him greatly and he let people know, which, of course was why the nickname stuck. This was the beginning of a period where my relationship with Mark deepened. There was a succession of roles in Sales and Sales Management where I would get promoted and Mark would replace me.  First, when I was moved from Territory sales rep to Strategic account rep, mark replaced me in the territory, then a few years later, Mark moved to Dallas to replace me there when I moved up to management in Portland. Eventually, Mark replaced me in the management role in Portland.

In every case, Mark excelled, both with the people under his care and with the account personnel. He would often say that the hardest part of the job was fixing all my mistakes and the easiest was the people. Mark was amazing with employees and key stakeholders, fostering a culture of inclusiveness, shared responsibility and teamwork. He created tools for sales that are still widely used today in Nike’s sales orgs. Mark was an intense competitor both at work and in sport. A setback was never a problem. It was an opportunity to regroup and attack the situation from a different angle. In these instances, it was always done as a team with shared responsibility. In sport, he was a force. Never happy with defeat, he would force you to keep going. There are legendary stories of ping pong matches in the New Jersey office that would last well into the night because he wasn’t going to go home that night losing to Bapper or Smallwood. There were also many broken ping pong paddles strewn about the office. At the same time, he was patient and compassionate. When he moved to Portland, he kept telling me that he wanted to teach my two young boys how to snowboard. Well, he did and now my two grown boys have a life long love of snowboarding and a connection to Sak they will never forget.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have reconnected with Mark when he moved back to Steamboat and started SBT GVL with Ken and Amy. In our first conversation about sponsoring the race, I told him that we were not partnering with this start-up race because of anything special about that race above any others. It was because I believed in him and his ability to turn SBT GVL into a world class event. We were investing in him. I still believe that with his passing. His sprit will live on in this race and I (individually) and we (Stages Cycling) will do our part to ensure that.

His absence leaves us weaker as friends, families, work colleagues and an industry, but having known him and worked with him  makes us all stronger in so many better ways. He was a force of nature in our industry, a champion of women in the workplace, a compassionate leader and a good friend.

Satkiewicz, Doering, and another friend enjoy a ski day during the days when the two were colleagues at Nike. Photo: Courtesy Bernie Doering

David “Happy” Hapemanfriend and former colleague at Nike
I first met Mark “Sak” Satkiewicz in the early 90s as he had just been promoted from Nike sales analyst to Nike territory sales representative. At one of our first sales meetings, I remember how Sak would spend as much time with Jim Ijams and me as he could as we worked on Nike’s key strategic account, the Finish Line. Sak was a big giant sponge for information, learning and knowledge. Sak wanted to know how we managed the business, how we built assortments, the tools we used, the complete thought process from art to science on how we led the business. I walked away from that meeting amazed at his talents, drive, and energy for learning, leading his business and being a great teammate.

One example of Sak’s skills and talents is later in his career he would take those learnings as he was leading the Footlocker Footwear sales business and build the sales/assortment/selling tools for the team that would be used for more than a decade to communicate our Nike business for our largest account across every function at every level of leadership. Simply amazing. He had listened to everything we said absorbed all of it and created better tools for the team and his teammates that would be used throughout Nike for more than a decade. That was Sak driven to find a better way for his team and teammates always bringing people together to find a better way.

In the greatness that was Nike sales culture at the time, we became close friends, crisscrossing the country with work moves and always finding time for ski trips, family ski trips, trail runs, mountain biking, and cycling whenever we could make it happen.

We both ended up working on the Nike North America leadership team. I ran into Sak early one morning and noticed he was waiting outside the office of our North America VP of sales. He was nervous, pacing, and said …“I have a meeting, I will come up to your office when I am done” … We met in my office and Sak was still nervous, anxious but also excited and energized. Sak had just let Nike know he was leaving to be VP of Sales for Smartwool. He walked me through his thought process, reasons, etc. He was still very anxious … I stopped him after some time as I was doing a lot of listening and said …“Sak … I am happy for you. I am proud of you, you’re are making the right decision. I have just one question … do I have to call you ‘Sock’ now?” … We both burst out laughing and I will always remember that moment.

I admire Sak for knowing what was important for himself and his family, for knowing that it was more important to be the person, father, husband, and leader that he wanted to be than what he was doing. He wanted to give his family the great life that Steamboat, Smartwool, and a life outdoors had to offer. With his strong belief in himself, the amazing support of his wife Amy and that vision Mark, Amy and the girls made it happen. It is truly a great story.

Mike McCauslan — longtime friend and co-worker at Nike
The thing I remember the most is how he lead us when he was our GMM. He was so thorough in reviewing the plans with us that it taught us all how to lead. I still remember his words to me as we were preparing for a “sell in”.

“This meeting will be a success, if when we finished, I haven’t said anything.” What he meant was that he had prepared the AE to such a degree that we would have the answers to every question. He would never have to step in as the leader. I still use that quote today with my team. “If I say nothing, we’ve had a successful meeting.” He was maniacal in his preparation, and it made everyone better. And he always took the bullets and made those who worked for him get all the accolades.

On a personal level, he was the same, offering advice but never telling you what he thought you should do. That was your decision. He was great at needling your athletic efforts as a way to motivate. You always knew that he was pushing you to be a better athlete and a better human. I’ll miss him dearly.

Brent Whittington — Moots Cycles, friend and riding partner
Difficult to find the right words or stories, but I’ll share what I remember the most. Mark and I had a lot in common given our business backgrounds, family, and current state of life. When he and I rode together, he knew it was always more of a chill ride for him so we got to talk a lot. What sticks with me the most is the word grateful. Grateful to have the time with family and to live in Steamboat — Mark was particularly appreciative of this given the health scare in California. Grateful to be able to ride his bike every day, but Sundays of course which drove me crazy at times. He loved saying he didn’t have a job, yet his family was his job, as was cycling. Mark was passionate and driven and inspiring to all those around him.

Chris Carmichael — CTS, friend and mentee
I first got to know Mark through Smartwool, and he worked with CTS Coach Jason Siegle for many years.  Our connection really grew deeper about 2 years ago before the first SBT GRVL and CTS came on as a sponsor. I really valued his insights on business and slowly he was mentoring me as an entrepreneur. We talked frequently, particularly over the past several months during the COVID-19 crisis; he’d been encouraging me and other entrepreneurs to strengthen their business models, let go of things that weren’t working, and position themselves for prosperity once the COVID crisis subsides. Mark always pushed me to the broadest vision possible for my company. I can hear him saying to me ‘Don’t put limits on what you and your team can achieve with a little elbow grease and vision.’  That was Mark. He was optimistic, generous, a visionary and he wanted to see everyone around him achieve success.

Garret Mariano — Big Agnes, former colleague, friend, and riding partner
Mark always pushed me to do more — to be better. A hard 75-mile ride wasn’t enough. He always added one more climb to the day — up to the schoolhouse or up Mt. Werner Road to finish out the ride. He always wanted more. I’m a better rider and a better person because of him.

Satkiewicz with friend and former colleague Garret Mariano. Photo: courtesy Garret Mariano

Ted King — friend and SBT GRVL winner
The one positive here is that thinking of Mark comes only with thoughts of a beaming smile and his seemingly boundless energy. My first interaction with Mark was a phone call where I sat outside the back of my home bike shop and he pitched this idea about a massive gravel bike race in his hometown of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I’ve heard rumor of a lot of bike races over the years, and there was something immediately and clearly different about what he saw for the future of what’s become SBT GRVL. His energy and enthusiasm was evident from the very beginning. I only knew Mark for two years, but his warmth, his vision, and his tremendously hospitable nature are what I’ll remember fondly.

David Smith — friend
In 2016 I was feeling pretty good about my cycling fitness and suggested to Mark, ‘We should do a race together.’ I really was curious if Mark was that much better than me as he told me he was. Without hesitation he says to me he will send me a link to a race we can do in California, and I was pretty psyched until the email arrived. It was the Belgian Waffle Ride, and I had never heard of it before. At that moment I realized I was in way over my head and that racing and riding with Mark was way different for him than it was for me. I had never even heard of gravel riding at that time, let alone had a bike. Over the next ten months, I trained my ass off with the intent of only surviving. In the end, I had what I thought was a great race and Mark had, by his standards, a bad race. He beat me by two hours! It was at that point I realized the difference between not just our abilities, but what it takes to be at Mark’s level. Over the last four-plus years, I have been committed to closing that gap with Mark and made little progress. He only got stronger and faster. And, I appreciated how he always reminded me of that to fuel my fire. However, he also coached me encouraged me, and celebrated my progress. I will draw on his focus and fire to always be great at whatever he did to help me excel on and off the bike.

Britt “Truk” Trukenbrod — college roommate and best man
In our early 20’s an indoor rock climbing gym opened in Chicago. Sak and I decided to try it out. As usual, he was 100 percent all in. Next thing I know, Sak buys two copies of “Freedom of the Hills” and we are teaching ourselves about knots, ropes, anchors, etc. He drags me to REI and we are now buying gear! I’m like ‘What the hell are we doing we have no idea about any of this!’’ Doesn’t matter! Next thing, he books a campsite at Devils Lake in Wisconsin — a surprisingly good and beautiful outdoor climbing area. We have our gear, hike up, find a nice wall, and Sak starts setting the ropes! I am absolutely freaking out! How did I get here, what the heck are we doing, this does not seem like a good idea. He went to work and was fully prepared and focused. And at that moment I learned what it was to truly believe in and trust someone with your life. There are very few people I could say that about. We shared some good climbing together after that — and I never would have done it if not for him!

John Manthei — longtime friend
Mark was an extraordinary man, and I am blessed to have been friends with him for over 34 years. Mark was always quick to laugh, and even faster to be there for you as a friend. A typical 25-minute call with Mark would always include several laughs, serious conversations about how my family was doing, words of encouragement, and a reset for me on what was truly important. Mark always knew when I needed a pickup, and I always got it. Mark never suffered many moments of self-doubt, but he was the most supportive person I have ever known for those of us that do. I love you brother, rest in peace ’til we meet again.

John “Bapper” Bapst  — longtime friend, co-worker at Nike
We first met in 2000 when I moved to Dallas to partner with him on the Footaction footwear business. We had never met but it took us about half a day to get comfortable with each other. He was incredible with Excel and templates and the financial side of the business. I was really good with the account relationship side of the business so we really fed off each other. I learned a ton from him and I hope he learned at least a little from me. Jeff Smallwood was our Manager and Billy Haile was our apparel rep. A small but powerful team! Working for Smallwood was never boring and Sak and I had a lot of great laughs watching him manage… we also learned a great deal from him, which would help us immensely later in our careers.

David Hapeman was also working in the Dallas Showroom at the time and between Sak and Happy, I was introduced to mountain biking and skiing. The three of us would go on rides to Grapevine Lake, and Sak would go out like a bat out of hell and Happy and I would just tell Sak we would catch up to him later… there was no way we were keeping up with him. He loved riding and I am so thankful I was introduced to it by him. He also loved to snowboard and tried several times to get me to convert from skiing to snowboarding.

After our second year on Footaction, Smallwood called us into his office and informed us that Footaction was being purchased by another company that was based in Northern New Jersey… and we needed to move there! Once we got over the shock of having to leave Dallas and relocate, we packed up and moved. The cost of living difference was shocking but we sucked it up, and Sak moved his family to Allendale, NJ and we moved just south to Ridgewood, NJ. We moved into a brand new office complex in Mahwah, New Jersey, and were the only tenants on the fourth floor. One other thing to note… Smallwood made us both pack up and move our families there, but he decided to commute to New Jersey! Nevertheless, it was an amazing time working with Sak every day. We were experiencing life together with our young families, helping each other out, etc. A fun story about our New Jersey showroom. Like I mentioned we had the whole fourth floor, so one day, Sak and I moved this old ping-pong table that was left in my basement from the previous homeowners to a vacant space across the hall from our Showroom. We would take several breaks a day and walk across the hall and play some epic matches… unbeknownst to Smallwood. Sak was the most competitive guy I’ve ever met so it was always 100 percent game-on for him. When things didn’t go his way, which was often, he would get upset and slam his paddle on the table. We had to start buying extra paddles he was breaking them so often. Everything was always a competition for Sak, which was one of the things I loved about him this most. On one of Smallwood’s weekly trips to New Jersey, he walked across the hall and saw the ping-pong table and asked us if we knew anything about it. We said no and tried to keep a straight face but started cracking up. In typical Smallwood fashion, he didn’t get mad, he just wanted to join the competition so now it was truly game-on with Jeff involved and trying to make wagers on the games!

Another favorite story about Sak is one time he came over to our house to babysit my daughter Lindsay, and son Jack. They were very young at the time and I’m not sure why Sak and not Amy was babysitting, but he came. Lindsay was taking piano lessons at the time and apparently Mark had a hidden talent for playing the piano. So, they made a recording of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” with Sak on lead vocals and the piano!

Footaction was then purchased by Foot Locker in early 2004 and Sak moved to Portland to start managing people and the business. He was a rock star and that paved the way for his move to Smartwool and incredible success. We went our separate ways at Nike but remained close friends ever since. We did a few family ski trips and watched our kids grow up. I was able to bring my family out to Steamboat for a winter ski trip once and see first hand how much Steamboat meant to him and his family. I regret not seeing and talking to him more because it was always like we were just together when we connected.

Mark was an incredible husband and father. His girls were everything to him. I was fortunate to know him and be his friend for 20 years.

RIP Mark and many prayers for Amy and the girls.