UNTIL LAST YEAR, 27-YEAR-OLD MELISSA BUHL WAS BEST KNOWN AS AMERICA’S TOP GRAVITY RACER, HAVING WON MULTIPLE DOWNHILL, DUAL-SLALOM AND 4X NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS. THEN SHE SHOCKED EVERYONE, EVEN HERSELF, BY WINNING THE 4X WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP. SHE RACES WITH A CALCULATED PRECISION, WHICH ONLY MAKES SENSE—BUHL IS AN ASPIRING DOCTOR, AND THIS SUMMER COMPLETED HER PRE-MED UNDERGRADUATE STUDIES.
Missy Giove was an inspiration to me, and a lot of other riders—not just women. She had a raw, fearless attitude. That’s why she was so exciting to watch race. But mostly she cared about the sport and raising the level of exposure and professionalism.
My first memories of Missy were seeing pictures of her in magazines with dreads and a stuffed fish, her pet piranha, around her neck. I also remember seeing her in Reebok commercials on MTV, painted silver. The thing that I found most inspiring…was her boldness. Missy doesn’t worry about what people think, and she is pretty real. What you see is what you get.
I first met her at Big Bear, California, at the 1996 NORBA National. She and Elke Brutsaert let me borrow Elke’s Schwinn DH bike at the race. She talked a mile a minute and asked me to join her Team Amazon. It wasn’t too official; she helped out a bunch of girls with race money, equipment, accommodation and entry fees. Even when I got sponsored by RockShox’ DEVO junior development program, Missy continued to help me for years through coaching and training programs.
Missy and I have different riding styles, for sure. She was wild and fearless; I am a bit more calculated. But even though she seems wild and crazy, she is one of the most compassionate and generous people I know. She really cared for the sport and giving back to it. That is what I learned from her the most—the importance of helping the sport continue to grow, taking the time to help up-and-coming pros and taking time to talk with people who show an interest in the sport.
I love Missy, and I am where I am in a lot of ways because of her, so of course I was very sad when I heard the news [Missy was arrested in June in a large-scale pot bust]. The thing about her, though, since I have known her, is that she has risen to every challenge—whether it’s been injuries, racing, her self-image or being open about her sexual preferences—and she finds a way to come out on top. She will with this, too. She is a good person and has touched a lot of people in a positive way. The mountain bike community should hold on to that.
Five top female riders discuss the women who inspire them, breaking into the boys’ club, zen and the fine art of femininity.
This content was originally published in Bike’s Sept/Oct 2009 issue.