By VINNIE PORTELL

Sports Editor

Every morning when Benson Danielo gets out of bed, there’s little else on his mind besides riding his bike.

It’s been that way since he first learned how to ride a bike at a little over 2 years old, and it’s taken him all across the country, and beyond, competing ever since.

Benson, now 8, recently returned from his first competition outside of the country — for the 2019 UCI BMX World Championships race in Belgium. He took sixth place out of 99 riders from 24 countries in his age bracket, by far his best and most encouraging finish of a blossoming biking career.

“It was amazing,” he said. “That was the best race I’ve had so far. We went to Amsterdam, too, which is the capital of the whole biking world.”

Benson’s passion for the sport is what drives him to practice and train nearly every single day, whether it be on a homemade ramp in his front yard, out at the Sarasota BMX Track or just riding around with friends or family. And it’s not just training that motivates him, as he often spends time watching videos of his favorite riders, like Anderson Souza and Anthony Dean, on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

A fun hobby has turned into a big part of his family’s life, taking them to several different states each year — Nevada, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee this year alone — as they camp out and watch Benson chase his dreams. The sport takes more than just time, too.

His parents can spend as much as $15,000 a year on BMX racing — whether it be the cost of travel, training, entry fees, or new bikes. But the sport has become a shared passion for the family to enjoy.

“It’s kind of addicting,” said Alison Marsicovetere, Benson’s mother. “The parents, I think, love it more than the kids. It’s very exciting. It’s nerve-wracking. There’s so many emotions you’re experiencing during a race. Not just for your own child, but for all the other kids you know, too.”

Typically, national races take Benson out of the state about once a month, and his recent trip to Belgium was his first experience leaving the country.

While practicing for the competition there, he hurt his ankle in a wipeout during practice. And after getting off to a slow start in the qualifying rounds, he battled back to make it through six rounds of races in one day of temperatures exceeding 100 degrees to make the final round.

“He never gives up,” Marsicovetere said. “Even at the Worlds during racing, he wasn’t in a qualifying spot and he did not give up until he got into that qualifying spot and held on. He fought in every lap to get in the main race.”

Benson doesn’t let any injuries slow him down. Along with his ankle injury before the World Championships, he also suffered a broken collarbone last year after he got caught underneath another bike on a jump. Though his doctor said it would take eight weeks to return to racing, he couldn’t sit still that long — returning to his bike in six weeks.

He admits he was a little unsure of himself for his first-ever race, but that feeling didn’t last long.

“My first race when I went to Rock Hill two years ago, I was a little nervous,” he said. “I was first out the gate, but I slipped off my pedal and then caught up to fifth. The next two rounds I finished in first, so after that I’ve been really confident.”

“Before races now I think about winning and it gets my confidence up.”

Next up will be a trip to Louisville for another national-level race as Benson continues to pursue his passion — with a dream of one day competing for the United States in the Olympics.

“It’s life-consuming,” Marsicovetere said. “And to compete on that level, it’s not just on-track training. He’s training every day off the track, working out, doing bike sprints. It’s really hard for a child when other kids are having fun and eating candy, he has to focus on his competitions.

“It’s difficult, but he loves to do it, so he makes those sacrifices.”

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