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Missy Giove: From world champion to convict and back again

Thirteen years removed from dominating downhill racing with her renowned style of controlled abandon, Missy Giove is still all energy. She still speaks rapidly and at will. She still prefers a multi-directional hairstyle and her collection of tattoos has expanded.

Now age 44, Giove, the former downhill world titlist, also still looks remarkably fit. She jovially bounded around Thursday on the opening day of the Sea Otter Classic, posing with a few fans in the small corner booth of the debuting mountain bike company, Underground Bike Works.

And yet so much has happened in the past seven years. Now in the final months of five years of supervised release and six months of home detention for marijuana trafficking, Giove is back in cycling — sort of.

After competing once last August in a World Cup event New York primarily in part as a cancer awareness campaign for her wife of several years (a cancer patient), Giove has re-united with John Parker. He's the founder of the mountain bike manufacturer Yeti, the cyclist's long ago sponsor. Parker has a new line of bicycles, one of which Giove will ride Friday in the women's pro slalom on the hillsides of Laguna Seca Recreation Area in Salinas, Ca. She’s participating more for celebration than competition. She may also compete in the downhill.

"The whole thing is not about coming back to racing," said Giove, who lives in Virginia Beach, Va. and works as a laborer at a yacht harbor. "It's about showing I still love to ride. It doesn't matter that I haven't ridden in awhile. I am going to be doing it for more stylized effects. These bikes are more about the lifestyle-type biking I'm promoting."

Giove claimed the 1994 downhill World Championship and finished third at World Championships three times. She claimed two overall World Cup titles and a few dozen other national circuit victories. She had major endorsement contracts, with her eccentric personality ideally captivating a mainstream audience to her niche extreme sport.

But Giove, whose nickname "Missile" was not only lyrical but described her wont for speed at any cost, retired in 2003. She won often and crashed often. She raced injured and still suffers from headaches and seizures.

"It's not always about winning races," said Giove. "It never for me was about winning races, although I raced and I won. I have just always wanted to have fun and put all of myself into something."

Within a few years after retiring in 2003 because of the lingering effects of a hemorrhage suffered in a crash, Giove was destitute. She began supporting herself by distributing marijuana around the country. She was arrested in 2009 after federal agents watched Giove and others unload several hundred pounds of marijuana from a trailer. She was sentenced in 2011.

"Everyone has been really cool," said Giove about her return to the sport. "I think people have realized I wasn't trying to hurt anybody. I was just trying to spread some love around.

"The place where I got it (the marijuana) was legal, but not where I took it. Attention to detail, right? People have been loving and accepting; Life is life, you know? But really, it's not something I am ashamed of. I totally respect others' opinions, though. At certain places and times, and although it’s not for everybody, it can be useful tool."

In addition to riding at least once at the Sea Otter Classic, Giove will have several additional autograph sessions throughout the four-day festival. She has no definitive plans to compete again, but she’s considering a World Cup race in Europe later this year.

"Because I lived the life of passion, whether it’s bike, snowboarding, skiing, I’m just kind of a maniac on wheels,” said Giove. "It’s always been a balance about how much pain can my body endure and can I still be happy and functional." 

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