Kyle Bennett, a three-time world champion bicycle motocross racer who represented the United States in the inaugural appearance of BMX racing in the Olympics in Beijing in 2008, died in a one-car accident Sunday near his home in Conroe, Tex. He was 33.
Justice of the Peace Matt Masden's office confirmed the death.
BMX races are more of a junkyard brawl than a velodrome sprint or a marathon like the Tour de France. Racers ride lightweight bikes on a course filled with jumps, sharply banked turns and obstacles. They start by pedaling furiously down a steep incline, sometimes nearly three stories tall, and reach speeds of 40 miles per hour. Collisions and injuries are common.
Bennett was known for a fluid style that earned him the nickname Butter. The International Cycling Union, which governs BMX, named him the BMX world champion in 2002, 2003 and 2007.
He was still competing at 33, an age by which many battered BMX racers have retired and gone into coaching.
"It's hard to say when I'm going to be ready to throw the towel in," Bennett said in an interview in 2010. Bennett's career was dogged by injury; in one crash, he sustained a broken collarbone, a separated shoulder, a fractured sternum, five broken ribs, a punctured lung and a lacerated liver.
During a preliminary race at the Olympics, Bennett dislocated a shoulder. After the shoulder was set, he biked in the next round of qualifiers but did not qualify for the medal race.
Kyle Ray Bennett was born on Sept. 25, 1979. He started BMX racing before he turned 10, encouraged by his stepfather, John Purse, a world champion rider. He turned professional soon after graduating from high school.
His survivors include a daughter, Kylie, and a fiancée.