Son of pro biker born into immigration battle |

Son of pro biker born into immigration battle

Steve Lynn
Vail, CO Colorado
NWS Janelle Baby PU 4-18-08

AVON, Colorado ” Two-week-old Mike Janelle yawns, opens and closes his eyes and looks at Chico Thuon the same way his father, Mike Janelle, did before he died.

“It’s awesome,” said Thuon, who was best friends with Mike Janelle for 20 years.

Michael Giovanney Janelle was born at 6:47 a.m. at the Vail Valley Medical Center. Weighing six pounds, seven ounces, he’s one of several family members born on the 7th of some month.

His father, Michael Paul Janelle, 40, died in his Avon home of heart failure the day after Thanksgiving. Janelle was well-known as an professional bike racer, ski instructor and friend.

Maribel Avila Janelle, his wife of a year and a half, had been pregnant with their first child at the time. Now she has a son to raise without his father and an immigration battle to fight.

She’s still somewhat content.

“I feel so happy for me and Michael and my family,” she said.

Mother battles for citizenship

Janelle the father was born June 7, 1967, in Chicksha, Okla. He grew up in Colorado and Iowa, and had lived in Eagle County for 23 years.

He was a world-renowned pro bike racer who has been part of winning teams in the Race Across America and 24 Hours of Moab. He raced road bikes and mountain bikes around the country and the world.

Janelle also taught skiing and snowboarding at Beaver Creek in the winter.

If you knew Janelle, you were lucky, said Maria DeSimone, a neighbor and friend of Janelle’s.

“He was one of those people you just dug,” DeSimone said. “He was always in good spirits.”

Bob Doyle, of Eagle-Vail, said Mike Janelle was like his adopted son. Janelle moved into Doyle’s home after Janelle and his son, Chris Doyle, became friends.

“It’s definitely a big loss for our family,” he said.

He hopes that baby Mike Janelle grows up healthy, he said. People were generous with their donations to his trust fund and he should have a financially secure life, he said.

Mother, son forced to move?

Friends hope they can watch Janelle’s son grow up in the Vail Valley, but that may not happen.

Maribel, from Colombia, married Mike Janelle in 2006. They had been married less than two years, the cutoff date for Maribel to gain citizenship, said Melisa Rewold-Thuon, Chico Thuon’s wife and Janelle’s friend.

Authorities have told Maribel that she cannot live in the state with her son ” a citizen because he was born in Vail ” and that she cannot work in Colorado, Rewold-Thuon said.

So Maribel has applied for citizenship in Arizona as her legal fees grow, Rewold-Thuon said.

“We just want little Mikey to be able to grow up in the valley and enjoy all the things his father used to love,” Rewold-Thuon said.

Maribel always followed the law as her citizenship is pending. When Janelle traveled around the world for bike races and went to a wedding outside the country, for instance, Maribel stayed in the valley.

“Basically she was following the rules and she got screwed by the system when he died,” Rewold-Thuon said. “If he hadn’t died, everything would have been fine.”

Holding onto Mike

Janelle had rubbed Maribel’s stomach and told his son that he loved him before he died, said DeSimone, who was with him that night.

“Everyone in the valley was waiting for his son’s arrival,” DeSimone said.

Like his father, baby Mike Janelle has light hair and sleeps a lot, too, Rewold-Thuon said. Janelle led an active life, but also liked to sleep.

“You can definitely see the resemblance,” Rewold-Thuon said about Janelle’s son.

Chris Doyle has visited baby Mike Janelle a couple times. The baby has a thin jaw-line like his father, but has fairer skin. Doyle is interested to see what baby Mike Janelle’s personality will be like, considering his father history as a prankster.

Janelle once pointed a sign in the wrong direction on U.S. Highway 6 during a bike race that started in Steamboat Springs and was supposed to finish in Vail, Doyle said. Cyclists looked in vain in Eagle-Vail for the finish line.

Janelle once also stopped traffic when he skied on the pavement from his hotel to Aspen Mountain.

“There were no boundaries,” Doyle said. “That’s what got him in trouble a lot of times, but you know, they’re all good stories.”

Seeing Janelle’s son stirs emotions that Doyle had when his friend died, but Janelle has left his son as gift that his friends and family can share.

“It’s just still a piece of Mike’s life that I think people can hold onto and feel like they’re a part of,” Doyle said.


Donations for the late Michael Paul Janelle’s son, Michael Giovanney Janelle, can be made to Mike Janelle Children’s Trust at First Bank of Avon. Call (970) 949-0100 for more information.


Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or

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