For much of last year, Boulder native and cyclist Mara Abbott thought she was done with cycling forever.

Even after dozens of prestigious wins, like two U.S. road national titles and the 2010 Giro Donne, Abbott wasn't happy with her life as a professional bike racer. She moved back home to Boulder and took up trail running and triathlons while battling an eating disorder.

After a year away from the sport, Abbott is back. The Boulder resident, who has recovered from her eating disorder and found a new team in Exergy Twenty16, won the 2013 Giro Rosa in early July. The Italian stage race (formerly called theGiro Donne until this year) is often referred to as the most prestigious race for women in the world.

Abbot, who's racing in Bend, Ore., this weekend at the Cascade Cycling Classic stage race, said that win felt different to her.

"The first time you win a race, you don't know you can do it until you've tried it," she said. "The second time, it's more about knowing what I'm capable of."

Abbott's parents, Dave and Liz Abbott, moved to Boulder in the early 1970s to attend graduate school at the University of Colorado. Dave Abbott earned a doctorate degree in astrophysics before pursuing a career as an astronomer and then as an elementary school teacher in Boulder. Her mom, Liz Abbott, earned a master's degree in public administration and worked for the City of Boulder, most recently as library director.

They're both retired now, and while Mara races in Bend this weekend, her parents are camping. They've never been overactive parents to Mara, who grew up swimming and swam for Whitman College, while getting her degree in economics.

"We've been pretty low-key her whole life," he said. "When she was swimming, we'd go to her meets but we weren't 'yellers.' We never pushed her to do it. In fact, I usually stressed academics over athletics."

Mara Abbott rides during the 2013 Giro Rosa, which she won for the second time this year. Courtesy photo
Mara Abbott rides during the 2013 Giro Rosa, which she won for the second time this year. Courtesy photo ( NICOLA IANUALE )

Her old swim coach Grant Holicky said Mara has always been "intensely loyal" and that her family drives her.

Mara said she's close to her brother Nate Abbott, who also lives in Boulder. The four Abbotts, who all live within two miles of each other in Boulder, get together once a week for dinner or some other outing, depending on everyone's travel schedules. .

Mara said it was hard for her to leave cycling because she didn't want to disappoint anyone. Likewise, it was just as difficult coming back to the sport because it was a decision that affected everyone she was close to.

"When I commit myself to people -- contract-wise or project-wise or whatever, in relationships with coaches -- once someone gets into my heart, there is nothing, nothing in the world that would cause me disloyalty," she said. "That's something as I'm making these decisions and bringing people who care about me along, sometimes it takes me longer to make those decisions."

Mara sits on the city's environmental advisory board and cares deeply about the earth, especially the mountains. Dave and Liz Abbott said although Mara was raised as a "pretty typical" green Boulderite, she found her passion for preserving the environment on her own.

Dave Abbott said he sees his daughter as Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind." Boulder is her Tara, the plantation O'Hara grew up on and can't leave for good. Mara has lived and raced in Europe throughout her cycling career, but her dad remembers that she always seemed a little "adrift" there, never completely comfortable.

"(Boulder's) her grounding and her center," Dave Abbott said. "It's familiar to her. She loves the scene here. It's her foundation. She's very connected to home and family and traditions and things like that. "

So far, Mara seems happy this season, Dave Abbott said. And that's all that really matters to him and Liz, he said.

For Mara, it's about waking up every day with a purpose and a goal, she said. In the end, she had to come back to cycling because she couldn't give up the feeling of breaking away from the peloton or pushing up a climb.

"It's a bit of an addiction because it's a rush and a feeling of purpose," she said. "Waking up and having that purpose of being devoted to this grander goal. It's something that's really, really hard to give up one you've lived that lifestyle."

--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.