As the 2012 season draws to a close, so, too, does the life chapter that is the long and decorated racing career of Melissa Buhl. Buhl has been racing for the majority of her life, and she has been no stranger to the top of the podium. In a career encompassing BMX, four cross, dual slalom, and downhill, in which she has won 13 four cross, dual slalom and downhill national titles as well as a four cross Worlds title, it is easy to call her a champion.
Buhl started racing BMX at the age nine outside of Phoenix, Arizona. At this early point in her racing career, it was probably only her BMX coach, Pat Blackburn, who truly knew her future potential. In the heyday of American mountain bike racing, as a young junior age 15, she joined team Rock Shox Devo and began laying the groundwork for a mountain biking career that would span nearly a decade and a half.
In 2001, Buhl signed with KHS factory racing where she would spend her entire elite racing career, something very few other top athletes in this sport can say at the end of their careers.
When asked to reflect a little bit about her career, she said in a recent statement, "It seems a while ago since my first memory of racing as a nervous nine-year-old novice. I was so eager to race, I had my kit on three hours before training even started and drove to the track with my helmet on. I'd be lying if I said my first performance was spectacular, far from it, I spent half the evening flailing around going ass over tea kettle, scabbing my knees up and dusting myself off! The rest of the evening was spent trying to convince my dad the injuries I picked up were insignificant and we should go again the next week."
"The cuts and bruises eased in days after the race but what stuck with me was the buzz from racing. The warmth and encouragement I received from strangers and excitement I shared with my family on the drive home that night blew my mind. For the next 21 years, the buzz has continued and racing has fed my soul on numerous levels. Because of this it's hard for me to announce my retirement from professional racing."
"Though racing continues to feed my soul, so too has my interest in medicine - which is now where I will shift my focus. Since completing my bachelor's degree I have been working hard behind the scenes to secure a place in medical school. Juggling the academics and racing while managing a solo race program has proven difficult at times, but also very rewarding - all of which I am very proud of, but the juggle has come to a point where I need to narrow my focus. As I finish my last season I look back on both with pride and satisfaction and now, a new excitement for the future as I head towards another career."
"It's been an amazing 21 years of growth, learning, crashing, smiling winning and losing. I have developed so many great friendships from my time with the BMX and MTB community and I will forever hold all of those friendships near and dear to my heart. The lessons I have learned from the bicycle community, racing, travel, sponsors and friends have shaped me into the person I am today."