It's funny how life can imitate art. The liner notes to the 1968 Jane Fonda cult classic invite the viewer to 'See Barbarella do her thing!' Velo Bella cyclo-cross racer Barbara Howe has been nicknamed Barbarella most of her life, and as Cyclingnews' MTB Editor Steve Medcroft finds, the catch phrase could easily be her own.
The 'thing' that you want to see Barbara Howe do is ride off the front of US cyclo-cross races. In 2004 alone, she stood on the podium in almost every national-caliber 'cross race in the season, winning three along the way. In fact, the only race she didn't do well in was the US National Championships in Portland, Oregon (Howe finished on the lead lap but three minutes and eight places behind winner Katie Compton).
Just like Barbarella bumped through the universe, comically oblivious to the dangers and threats being thrust at her, Howe has had a few misadventures of her own. One involves a 18-hour car pool to a mountain bike race with Howe-led navigation down dirt roads and into a speed trap. Another involves her use of training to escape a relationship. But that's not where her story starts...The balance bar and life without a car
Howe wasn't always the Queen of the 'Cross Galaxy. She discovered athletics at eight years old in a very traditional way: gymnastics class. "I did gymnastics through the end of high school," she says from her her home in Marin, California. "I was doing ballet but switched because gymnastics was much more interesting - there was a trampoline opposed to standing around in front of a mirror hanging on a bar." Howe says she took gymnastics seriously enough but adds: "I was competitive so I guess that's not mediocre, but I liked bouncing and swinging myself around much more."
Read the entire Barbara Howe interview here.