Tribute, November 29, 2007
June 7, 1967 - November 23, 2007
American professional racer Mike Janelle died in his sleep of heart failure on Friday, November 23, just one day after the Thanksgiving holiday. Janelle was a regular in the road and mountain bike community; during his career, he touched the lives of countless cyclists, promoters, friends and fans.
He was found by his pregnant wife, Maribel early Friday morning when she went to wake him and emergency responders were not able to revive him. Besides his wife, Janelle leaves behind their unborn baby, due in March of 2008.
Just over a month ago, the apparently healthy 40 year-old from Colorado competed with Nat Ross as part of Team Gary Fisher / Tokyo Joe's in the 24 hours of Moab. The pair won the duo pro category, and Janelle was already looking ahead to other endurance events.
"I've done so many individual solo races. I'd never done a duo and he asked me to do it," said Ross of their shared 24 hours of Moab experience.
Although he is known more recently for his involvement in endurance mountain bike and road events, Janelle raced for much of his career on the road. He was widely loved for his sense of humor and smile. Friends say that he was a joyous person who simply loved to ride. Mike would ride his bike to work winters as a ski instructor at Beaver Creek Resort from his home in nearby Avon, Colorado.
A fund has been set up by Janelle's team-mates and friends in his memory in order to support Maribel and their unborn baby. Contributions may be sent to Mike Janelle Memorial Fund, c/o 1st Bank of Avon, PO Box 5270, Avon, CO 81620.
Janelle grew up in Iowa and Colorado and lived for 23 years in Eagle County, Colorado according to the Vail Daily. His dad, Jack, was a pro cyclist who finished fourth and fifth at the 1980 and 1981 US National Time Trial Championships and mainly raced in Colorado along with Bob Cook, Ron Kiefel and the Stetina brothers.
Mike's Dad taught him about riding and racing, and Mike began his own road racing in 1988, and then took up mountain biking in 1996. In recent years, he focused on endurance events, both on and off road.
Janelle represented the US at the 2005 UCI World Marathon Mountain Bike Championships in Lillehammer, Norway, where he finished 65th. The same year, he and Jay Henry, riding together for the Ford/Tokyo Joe's team, rode steadily to a win in the duo pro category at the 24 Hours of Moab.
Earlier this year, Mike was one of the members of Team Beaver Creek - Catlin, the winning four person team at the Race Across American (RAAM). Other team members included Jim Mortenson, Nat Ross and Zach Bingham. Janelle was also part of the 2005 and 2006 RAAM winning team, then called Beaver Creek / Vail.
"We had just decided to do it (the RAAM) again two weeks ago," said Ross after the team's sponsor announced their commitment. "This was going to be the last year as his life was about to change with the coming baby. We were set to go do the BC Bike Race together this year, too."
In late July, Janelle finished second by only ten minutes behind Josh Tostado at National Ultra-Endurance Series Round # 4, the Breckenridge 100, on July 22 in Colorado. Earlier in the month, he placed fifth at the USA Cycling National Mountain Bike Marathon championships, also held in Breckenridge.
Tributes and comments on the death of Mike Janelle
Nat Ross (Subaru / Gary Fisher), long-time friend and RAAM and 24 Hours of Moab team-mate: "Mike was an incredible instructor on the bike. For those who were willing to be a student, he had a lot to offer. The amount of an experience he had was incredible - his father was a pro cyclist, too. I met Mike through racing because he was one of those guys that just reached out to you. He was one of the pros who was very approachable."
Jay Henry (Tokyo Joe's Mountain Bike Race Team), long-time friend and team-mate: "Mike enjoyed racing bikes more than anyone I know. In his 23 year cycling career he attended as many races in as many diciplines as possible, simply for the love of the sport. He achieved a great deal of success, winning a countless number of races of all varieties. Yet he was most known for his friendly and charismatic personalilty.
"He treated every one around him with respect, always taking the time to talk with fans or fellow racers. His impact on cycling has been profound. As for me personally, I owe so such much to Mike I don't know where to begin. He has been a teammate, a training partner, a mentor, and most of all a friend. It is difficult to think about riding a bike without him."
Greg Randoph, 1996 Olympian: "I knew Mike for the better part of a decade. He was a tremendous individual who transcended everything that is true, pure and right about cycling. He was a fixture on the racing scene. Road, mountain bike, endurance, RAAM...all of it. He raced more than 99% of racers out there. While he did not have ProTour victories or NORBA titles he was a guy who was always in the mix, known and loved by all, never without a huge grin on his face whether he was 50th or first and would show up to race at so many different events you had to wonder how it was physically possible for someone to be in so many places.
"Mike Janelle touched the lives of nearly every competitive racer in some way or another not only in Colorado but the entire country. This person's life was unique, remarkable and lived to the fullest each and every day. People need to hear about him... . You cannot underestimate the impact this death has had on the American cycling community."
Todd Wells (GT): "I met Mike through cycling when I first started the NORBA circuit in 1995. I got to know him better when I spent some time in Vail one summer living with my now wife at her parent's house. Mike had also lived with her parents for almost 18 years when her brother, former cyclist, Chris Doyle brought him home one day and he never left. Anyway, I went on many rides with Mike over the years and they were always longer and harder then I wanted to go but that was just how it was with Mike.
"I remember going on one ride with him where we did a big loop, from Avon to Leadville to Copper to Vail. It was like 100 miles, four or five mountain passes and over 10,000 feet [elevation] for most of the ride. He told me it only took about five hours and wasn't very hard. I was so worked on the six hour ride that I could barely train at all the rest of the week. Mike was a great person and an amazing athlete. He was an instant friend to everyone he met and will be greatly missed."
Chris Eatough (Trek / VW): "I have known Mike for years, and raced against him many times. Mostly 24 hour team races and marathons. His passion for mountain biking was obvious. His attitude was always positive. His smile was huge. He was one of the most popular people in mountain biking. He will be missed. As a new father myself, I can say for sure that Mike would have made a great dad. His family is very much on my mind, and I can only imagine what they are going through."
Laird Knight of Granny Gear Productions and 24 Hours of Moab Promoter : "When I first heard about his death, I wished I'd known him better. I missed a real opportunity to get to know a fine human being. Every experience I had with him was so pleasant. He was a joyous person. His smile said it all. I realized what I missed by not getting to know him better. He was one of the greats and he had the legs, too. I wish I could have had his legs for a day. I wish I could have gone for a ride with him.
"I remember the first year he showed up was 1998 24 hours of Moab. He was on a kick-ass pro team and just crushed the field. It was Mike Janelle and Jay Henry and I can't remember who else. Mike was always a force to be reckoned with. There couldn't be a more deserving guy. It's people like Mike that keep me doing this [promoting]."
Jeff Frost, NMBS Director: "It seemed like Mike broke on to scene with the National Series and raced with Tokyo Joes for a few years. He was always around the Series. He had one of best smiles, one of the best senses of humor, and was one of most talented guys. He was a great guy. I wish I had gotten to know him more off the bike. He always had time for everyone."
Chris Fisher from Connecticut: "I am still in shock after learning of Mike's death in his sleep. Mike and I became good friends on the mountain bike scene in the mid to late '90s. We were both trying to turn pro and raced the whole national circuit as experts. Mike always had a smile on his face. He was ever the optimist. Mike was the guy to hang with when I got tired and frustrated and questioned the logic behind what we were doing. When I retired in '03, I saw Mike less and less, but somehow always managed to run into him if I was coaching or racing in the Vail/Beaver Creek area.
"No matter how long it had been since the last time we had seen each other, it always felt like it had been just yesterday. Mike was an excellent athlete and an even better friend. He will be sorely missed, and I cannot even express how awful I feel for his wife and unborn baby. "
Jay Hewitt, Ironman triathlete from South Carolina: "I raced RAAM team for Team Type 1 against Mike and Vail/Beaver Creek in 2006. Vail/Beaver Creek beat us by only four minutes. I was so impressed with Mike and the other members of that team. Like Mike, I'm an endurance cyclist/triathlete, 40 years-old with an infant daughter and feel so sorry for your loss. God Bless to his wife and unborn child."
David Broo, Endurance Rider from Norway: "To Mike Janelle's friends, family, and riding mates, I'm very sorry to hear about this tragedy. He was a rider that I looked up to and admired. I'm deeply sad about this. I hope that someone close could put up a foundation or something to support endurance riders. I would like to support that. Something that helps us remember Mike. I hadn't gotten the chance to race against him. But it will be a hell of a group ride in heaven later. Long rides in the sunset with laughter and happy smiles. I promise you all that!
Trek / VW Factory Team Pro racer Jenny Smith from wheresbrianandjennysmith.blogspot.com: "Brian and I feel privileged to have had some of Mike rub off on us during our time riding and racing with him. His attitude, zest for life and personality made him the best kind of person to be around. All my thoughts of him make me smile, whether its the tall tales of $80 dollars worth of McDonald's reviving him during a latter day in the RAAM, the smile he had at 3am in the morning, the visual of his SLR saddle and aluminum hard tail that he rocked mercilessly over the roughest terrain, or the utmost respect we have for his love of life. Rest in peace Mike you will be sorely missed."
Dara Marks Marino from www.juniper-solutions.com: "Anyone who has spent five minutes with Mike has laughed for five minutes straight. He was a phenomenal mountain biker, an exceptional skier, a seeker of all things fun and exciting. Parties and good times literally followed Mike wherever he went. Mike, you will be missed."
Gord Fraser: "It was with incredible shock and sadness that we learned about the tragic passing of Mike Janelle. Every town or city possesses iconic figures for their cycling community, and I believe Mike would fit that description for the Vail Valley. Although primarily a respected and accomplished mountain bike racer, Mike would foray into road racing and grace us with his compassion, friendship and good humour. This was especially evident in the annual pilgrimage to the Bermuda GP, where Mike organized team Catlin for the past few years. I am forever grateful to have these incredible memories, and knowing Mike has made everyone that knew him a better person."
Gretchen Reeves (Tokyo Joe's): "I met Mike back in '95 when I first moved to Vail. There were a few of us affiliated with Vail Bicycle Services that traveled the NORBA circuit together. Those were high times and they had only gotten better.
"At some point, we (including Jay Henry) appropriately deemed ourselves "The Renegades". It could have been at the Norway/World Championships when we got three traffic violations, put a dinger in the rental van, and lured cows into the rental cabin with Coca-cola. Or, maybe it happened in Brianhead when we downed a few glasses of wine the night before the 7:00 am marathon and then downed a deer in Schmatz's car on the way to the marathon the next morning (sorry Dan!). Then it could have just been a snowy night out in Vail when Janelle decided to crawl out of the sun roof and make "whoopie" to the windshield while my friend was driving.
"These are some of the reasons that we were laughing our butts off the other night at the memorial [service]. Mike was crazy and fun and he made us all laugh. He was also a genuine guy who made you feel like a good friend in a matter of minutes. He was a hard-working team-mate and always kept the morale high. I will miss him hugely but his spirit will be on the trail always!"
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