Michael "Casey" Saunders, 1987-2017: Beloved Missouri cyclist and "Honest Racer"

Beloved and tenacious Missouri bicyclist and racer Michael "Casey" Saunders, 29, passed away Sunday as the result of injuries suffered at the Tour of Kansas City Criterium that day.

Casey Saunders at Big Shark
Casey Saunders at Big Shark

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Casey Saunders at Sunday's race. His life touched so many in Missouri's bicycling community.  Our thoughts are with Casey's family, friends, teammates, and the many who knew him, raced with him, or followed his race career.

Saunders had a long history in Missouri's racing community, where he was known for his hard work, tenacity, friendliness, and competitive spirit. The Webster-Kirkwood Times wrote:

Saunders started racing when he was 15 years old. He worked his way up through the ranks and was competing at the top level among professional cyclists. He was working full-time as a bike mechanic at Big Shark Bicycle Company in St. Louis and racing on the weekends. Although he did a lot of road racing, Saunders also competed in cyclocross and mountain bike races, as well as track racing at the Penrose Park velodrome in St. Louis.

A Kansas City Star article adds the perspective of Saunders' friends and co-workers at Big Shark Bicycle Company:

Saunders' charge up the ranks of top state bicyclists always had that "David against Goliath" feel, Mike Weiss said.

He looked "like a grasshopper," friend and bicycle racer Susan Kubinak of St. Louis said. "He was all thigh."

"He was always a fun guy to cheer for," she said.

At Big Shark Bicycle Company, Saunders was known as one the most reliable and dedicated workers--but also as one of the family. Mike Weiss, owner of Big Shark, said, "I don't feel like I was his boss. I was somewhere between a work parent and a buddy."

Despite working 40 hours a week, and riding the "ultimate beater" of a bike to work--that was probably "not worth three bucks" according to Weiss--Saunders rose to ride in the top ranks of bicycle racers in the Midwest. 

Saunders' friends quoted in a CBS St. Louis article summed it up:

"Casey was probably the friendliest, most generous, humble person that I knew," Maurice Hessel said – sounding a theme heard over and over again from those who knew Saunders. "Never had anything bad to say about anybody."

While echoing that sentiment, Saunders' friend Rob Bell recalled that he could also be a fierce and compassionate racer.

"He was a good all-around guy, but he was a mean racer," Bell explained. "Don't let the nice guy fool ya. Ooh, he could really rip it up man. He will be missed."

We share the feelings of friends, fellow cyclists, and co-workers from Big Shark Bicycle Company, who wrote:

We lost a family member, friend, teammate and amazing soul yesterday. RIP Casey Saunders- the best guy we have all known. He raced, worked and lived 100% and was a pleasure to know and love. Out thoughts are with his family and girl friend. Heartbroken.

A Memorial Gathering and Celebration of Life service will be held for Saunders on Thursday, June 29th. The Memorial Gathering begins at 4 p.m. and continues until the Celebration of Life Service at 7 p.m. at Bopp Chapel, 10610 Manchester Road in Kirkwood.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the National Park Foundation at www.nationalparks.org or funds can be sent in memory of Casey Saunders to Philmont Scout Ranch, #17 Deer Run Road, Cimarron, NM 87714.


Photo credit:

  • Big Shark Bicycle Company.