Wednesday, July 15, 2009

High Ride

Remember Missy Giove, the out lesbian mountain bike champion?

Well, she's in jail, as reported in the Denver Post.

The iconic mountain biker, who resided in Durango for more than a decade, won 14 national titles and was the world champion downhill racer in 1994. She screamed down slopes on the edge of control, landing in either an ambulance or on the podium.

Her persona — she dangled a dried piranha around her neck and tucked her dead dog's ashes in her bra when she raced — and talent made her mountain biking's highest-paid athlete, earning her well over $2 million.

Then last month, six years after she formally retired from racing, federal agents busted the 37-year-old and an accomplice with 400 pounds of marijuana and $1 million in cash.

"Everyone in the circle of
Missy Giove was mountain biking's "first rock star." She faces drug-trafficking charges. (The Denver Post)
mountain biking is shocked by the news — not because she was arrested, because that was not surprising. She had numerous car wrecks and slight problems with authority," said Giove's longtime friend and former bike racer Craig Glaspell. "The fact she might be involved in some pretty heavy drug trafficking is the crazy thing. I mean, real crazy."

According to authorities, on June 16, a team of federal drug cops watched Giove meet a confidential informant at a hotel in Albany, N.Y., and drive away in a rented truck pulling her own trailer. Cops had already found 350 pounds of marijuana in the trailer. Giove drove the rig to the Wilton, N.Y., home of Eric Canori, 30, where police found another 50 pounds of the weed and $1 million packed into a duffel bag in a hallway closet.

Days after her arrest, her public defender, Tim Austin, alleged the drugs were planted in Giove's possession, possibly by police. Her next hearing is scheduled Tuesday.

While it was shocking to hear of Giove's arrest, her friends say it is not that surprising that "Missy the Missile" would be found at the top level of anything she was doing.

"When she was riding, she was willing to throw it all out there. She was either going to win or crash hard," said Scott Montgomery, who, as vice president of marketing for Cannondale in the mid-1990s, enlisted Giove to ride for his team. "She was mountain biking's first rock star. She transcended the sport. She was larger than life."

She was sponsored by Reebok. She appeared on MTV, Conan O'Brien's show and David Letterman's "Late Show." She drew thousands of fans to formerly obscure mountain-biking events.

She was unquestionably gifted on her bike and carefully fostered her Dennis Rodman-esque image.

"That got her a huge amount of publicity, attention and money," said Alison Dunlap, a professional mountain biker who raced cross country during Giove's downhill blitzkrieg. "She knew what she was doing."

But she didn't roll like a rock star. Yes, she trained part time in the south of France. But in Durango, she drove a modest car and lived in a yurt behind a friend's house. It was her father, who died three years ago, who secured big dollars for his daughter.

Montgomery remembers a "shrewd and tough" Ben Giove, working with executives at Cannondale and Volvo on her sponsorship contract. She earned $250,000 a year after her world title in '94. In 1997, Cannondale-Volvo upped Giove's year-long contract to $450,000.

That's a lotta pot. Dang.