Growing up, Ben Lesnak religiously trained and played baseball. Originally a pitcher and infielder, he became a catcher during high school and also briefly played on his college team. During his first few years of high school, Ben also ran cross-country with moderate success until shin splints preventing him from further competition.
Ben did some occasional riding over the years, but nothing in the way of serious training. Acting on a suggestion from a colleague, he started riding to work in the summer of 2007 and cycling started to take more prominent role. Undaunted by the theft of his bike on the last day of his job while working in Manhattan during the summer of 2007, he bought a fashionable single speed. He continued to use the bicycle as his main mode of transport and started regular rides in Prospect Park as well. After months of grinding around the Park, he finally caved in and bought a bike with gears, a power meter, and started seriously training for a cross-country bicycle trip.
Ben finally did his first race – after nearly 2 months of strenuous interval training – in Prospect Park. Lacking a sprint, he finished in the pack, but was hooked on racing. He did a couple more Park races before his cross- country trip, vowing to return for more. Spurred on by the mix of technology and athletics, in 2009 he focused on time trials at first and slowly worked his way into hilly road races and stage races.
Ben Lesnak is a member of the New York Sketches team, a sub-team of the CRCA.
December Weight: 155 lbs.
Race Weight: 150 lbs.
Birthdate: September 30, 1977
Childhood Heroes: “Nolan Ryan, Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn – guys were talented but also thoughtful about what they were doing.”
Hobbies and Interests: “Cycling, auto racing.”
Favorite Movies: “The Last of the Mohicans, Le Mans.”
Musical Tastes: “Four main areas: hip-hop, electronic/DJ (great for workouts/intervals), classical, blues.”
Favorite TV Shows: “Rarely watch TV, but I devour seasons of 24 (early years) and Mad Men.”
Favorite Meal: “Varies: blazing hot lamb vindaloo, anything from New Orleans, just about anything my mom cooks.”
Favorite Breakfast Cereal: “No cereal – might have a bit of Fage 100% fatty Greek yogurt and some goji berries.”
Favorite Pre-Race Meal: “My mom’s special Rice Crispy Treats (almond butter, some dark chocolate, lots of love).”
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: “Not a big ice cream fan. Main dessert is dark chocolate and almond butter.”
Childhood Dream: “To be a baseball player, race car driver, planned on being a doctor in high school.”
First Car: “1987 or so Pontiac Sunbird wagon – my parents’ old car – perfect for hauling my friends around since I was the first one to get a night license. It also seemed impervious to various abusive driving tricks – thankfully. Violent front-wheel hop when accelerating hard from a red light was hilarious, especially when the car was loaded with people.”
First Job: “Ran a lawn mowing/lawn care business in high school.”
Favorite Vacation Spot: “California, Utah – great riding, beautiful scenery, and also enjoy anywhere there is a car race or a driving school (Watkins Glen, NY, Sebring, FL, etc.).”
Pre-Race Feeling: “Amazed that I am awake and functioning at whatever the early hour is, occasionally nervous though that quickly disappears when I realize that my performance is largely dictated by the last few weeks of training.”
Early Racing Memory: “First race ever was in Prospect Park – going down the big downhill I was totally thrilled, scared, and hooked. I have driven race cars wheel to wheel – but this was different – everyone was inches apart, wheels overlapping and nearly no protections – it seemed like a suicide pact. In any case, it was a thrill – and so easy compared to the merciless intervals I was killing myself with at the time. I was shocked at how easy it was to hang out in the pack…and how incredibly hard it was to leave the pack as a couple solo breaks failed.”
Funny Racing Memory: “Group nature break at Catskills – only about 25 miles into the race – quite a scene.”
Greatest Racing Moment: “Winning Unionvale. Spent all day hanging out in the back, waiting for the race to start. Finally, last lap, worked up to the front on the last climb/roller, stayed in front on the fast downhill, and was fresh for the finishing climb. The field was intact going into the climb and everyone just went backwards up the climb.”
Most Painful Moment In Life: “Spent a good year flying to my parents place on weekends to build a race car for one particular race (One Lap of America) and things did not work out. I did loads of careful planning, put in endless amounts of work, lots of dollars, etc. Tons of blame to go around, but I just did not properly account for many things not working as planned and I essentially bit off more than I could chew. The project was only building a (stupid) car, but I had a lot tied up in it emotionally. Not completing a long-term project is tough on the ego. I still wanted to do the race, and got to do the race, thanks to my 80 year-old grandfather lending me his beloved Subaru WRX. My dad and I had a great time during the One Lap race.”
Worst Injury from Racing: “Bruised or broke a few ribs in my back when some guys sprinting for 23rd place started a pile-up in Prospect. I had nowhere to go and went over them and flipped off my bike. Even worse was ￼when I hit a raccoon in Prospect while training. Thanks to a broken streetlight on the steepest part of the loop – there was a 50-foot pitch-black section. Something felt weird and I didn’t realize I was falling until I hit the ground – hands still on the bars and still pedaling! 30 mph to zero mph in a flash. Luckily it was cool out and I was bundled up. Painkillers were useless, two weeks of extreme soreness and then about a month to really get over the discomfort. I couldn’t sneeze for over two weeks, but I could ride without a problem which is typical of my bike injuries!”
Closest Racing Friends: “Coach Ken! And John Anthony, teammate.”
Favorite Race: “Catskills.”
Embarrassing Racing Memory: “Not during a race – but on the Nyack ride – first time out – I was in fine form and taking strong pulls at the front. But this was my first Nyack ride and I had no idea where I was going. I figured someone would let me know about turns. Wrong! I ended up going straight during a long, hard pull when I should have veered left. Looked back and the tail of the pack was going by and I was all alone on the wrong road. Embarrassing!”
Favorite Athletes to Watch: “Cyclists, during a long climb, especially a finishing climb.”
Qualities You Most Admire in People: “Smarts, ability to put others at ease, ability to anticipate what others are thinking.”
What You Love Most About Riding Your Bicycle: “Speed, scenery, feeling alive.”