Cyclist bronzed in Breck
BRECKENRIDGE – A dream. That’s what the past week has felt like for Erin Mirabella.Nine days ago she placed fourth in the Olympic track cycling points race. Four days later she found out that the third-place finisher, Colombia’s Maria Calle-Williams, had tested positive for a banned substance and that the bronze medal was hers. Friday, through a stroke of convenience, Mirabella received the bronze medal she thought would be mailed to her in an impromptu surprise ceremony at the Grand Timber Lodge in Breckenridge, where she and her husband Chris are vacationing this week.USA Cycling’s Ethan Bosch made the drive from Colorado Springs to present Mirabella with her medal at Grand Timber’s Lodgepole Bar and Grill, and front desk manager Kelley Jensen hastily arranged the ceremony, complete with champagne and the Olympic podium music.”I was thrilled with fourth, but now I kind of feel like I’m dreaming,” said Mirabella. “We had joked after the race in Athens, ‘I’m fourth pending drug tests.’ But it feels like it was just reward.”
Chris, a former nationally ranked Greco-Roman wrestler who now coaches his wife, never lost hope. “I know that Erin rides against some riders who are not clean,” he said.As surprising as it was, Mirabella’s medal was equally unexpected going into this year’s Summer Olympics because of historical factors surrounding her performances and USA Cycling’s as a whole.No American woman had ever won a medal in the points race (riders get points from their performances in sprints once every 10 laps they ride around the Velodrome’s track), and Mirabella took 13th in the world championship points race earlier this year after riding to 10th at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
More, Mirabella didn’t even know that the U.S. was going to be awarded a berth in the Olympic points race until she found out she was the rider going.”I like to call it my gift from God,” she said Friday, wearing a USA Cycling baseball cap and a smile as big as her cheeks would allow. “Because I totally didn’t think (the berth) was even going to happen, and then it did, and now we’re here.”Mirabella found out for sure the medal was hers about an hour before the closing ceremony on Sunday, but because there wasn’t enough time for the medal exchange to take place in Athens, Mirabella went home to her La Habra, Calif., home empty-handed.”The Colombian definitely stole that moment, you know, the podium and the recognition and being able to share it with my family,” said Mirabella. “But it’s still great.”
But Mirabella chose Summit County for her post-Olympic vacation. After spending the first two days of their stay in Breckenridge recovering from jet lag, Erin and Chris hiked up the Banker’s Tank Trail on Friday and even bought ducks for today’s Summit Foundation 17th annual Rubber Duck Race.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 231, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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