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.
To read the complete tribute, including comments from many in the cycling community, click here.