The Life & Times of Missy Giove | Higher Ground

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The Life & Times of Missy Giove | Higher Ground

There is a certain duality that comes along with a mind this intense. For those who don’t know, in June 2009, well after retiring from World Cup racing, Giove’s luck took a turn for the worse when she was arrested in upstate New York for trafficking marijuana. Almost 400lbs of it, and $1.47 million cash to boot. She was in deep. Fortunately the sentence was pretty light and she avoided an extensive jail term by spending six months on house arrest and five years of supervised release. A contributing factor for this was that the weed had been traced back to a hippie farm in Nor Cal, far removed from anything Cartel related. Additionally, no firearms were present. These factors and no criminal history go a long way in court, and helped Missy get on with a semi normal life.

In a sport and industry where certain legends can linger and milk short–lived careers, insiders tend to keep tabs on the founders of the sport. Some time has passed since Missy’s arrest and she’s been flying under the radar. She is pretty well out of contact with the bike world these days. She always was the black sheep anyway; one of a very short list of riders suspended from competition by NORBA for ‘behaviour’. At one point that even took her out of contention for World Cup competition. Many are curious about just what she’s been up to the last few years, and I’m sure they’d love to hear an account directly from the source. A comeback story would be even more scintillating, but don’t hold your breath, at least for the immediate future. Until Missy’s supervised release is up she won’t be travelling without court permission.

Anyway. It started out with a phone number from the editor and a simple “good luck” after I’d wrapped up the Myles Rockwell interview. I figured she’d be a bit wily and isn’t keen on talking to the press for obvious reasons. After some thought about what to say I called and left a message. No response. Two weeks go by and I decide to just send a text message. I tried to avoid sounding like a complete knob, but asked her again if she’s interested in meeting. Nothing. I wait a few more days and send one last Hail Mary text out of desperation. She replies right away and says she wants to talk. Holy hell, I couldn’t believe it. This may actually happen.

Later that week we talked and set up an interview. After two hours chatting on the phone I felt at ease, but it dawned on me that her personality was much like I expected. Fast talker, tangents, intense stories, extroverted… she immediately began spilling her guts and volunteered personal information and told stories most would keep tightly guarded. We began discussing our roots; both New Yorkers but coming from drastically different backgrounds. She grew up in Astoria Queens, I grew up on a small dairy farm upstate. Her dad was a bookie, mine was a farmer. It didn’t matter, we clicked. Laying out the details, I told her I realised what she’d endured legally and that I didn’t want to catalyse any repercussions from sloppy or selfish journalism. Missy laughed. In her own words she made it clear that I needn’t soft talk her. She assured me I’d end up with a totally candid, no holds barred interview. Seemingly unapologetic, far from ashamed and nothing to hide… perfect. After some stories, we cut to the chase and sorted where we could get a discreet shred going for a couple days on the east coast. I was giddy and ready to get away from the sandy, homogenized So Cal terrain where I live now. I looked forward to an adventure rallying in the woods with an idol from my teenage years. Surreal. Seventeen some odd years ago I was heckling Monk (her long time mechanic) at Mount Snow, asking where she was so she I could get her autograph.

A couple of months flew by and before I knew it, I boarded a plane to go hang with ‘The Missile’ for three days of Appalachian shredding. I touched down and we met outside of her high–rise apartment in a touristy east coast town reeking of New England vacationers. Its residents were mostly displaced military families and a fair few retirees. Not at all the type of town I had pictured her in. After waiting a bit in the lobby she came around the corner out of breath with a casual limp and invited me up for a tour. Jeans sagging, sporadic tattoos – some new and clean, some old and faded. At least four of them said ‘Kristen’. Much to my surprise, her hair was long and wavy, obscured by a flat billed hat and big sunglasses. Removing her glasses she revealed sweet and soulful eyes that were focused but seemed wary. They have seen more than most do in ten lifetimes.

What seemed like twenty something floors up we arrived at her sprawled out apartment. One hallway was full of trophies in a glass case. Nothing else revealed anything thrilling until – yes, out on the balcony her old Foes was waiting. Although it’s 10 years old, out dated and barely functional, Missy still shreds on it without a care in the world. Realising that made me feel like a priss for fussing over my current bike; I need to be humbled and grounded occasionally. More snooping revealed a skateboard and a surfboard. We talked surfing and ‘relaxed’ a bit out on her balcony overlooking the Atlantic Ocean before packing the car for a long drive into the mountains for some downhilling.

Her wife Kristen headed up with us along with her son Shay. Both were equally stoked to get out of town and into the woods. Their dynamic was interesting: a solid couple that balanced each other out well. Missy’s nervous ticks and somewhat highly strung, neurotic tendencies were eased by Kristen’s cool, calm demeanour. Kristen is a successful attorney who runs her own firm. As straight laced, professional and mellow as she is, Kristen has an adventurous side. She used to compete in some equestrian competition ‘til a horse jumping accident laid her up. The couple has a ‘five year plan’ hoping to get to a quieter part of California where Missy can enjoy her outdoor lifestyle and some other offerings of the west coast. Kristen is hoping to get Shay near Silicon Valley and the tech industry. I could picture them near Santa Cruz.

We got to the mountain, grabbed our rentals and just decided to knock some runs out, let loose and get the blood flowing after the long car ride. I was eager to see how she would fare after all these years and the injuries had taken their toll. At the age of 41, she still held it wide open. I knew Missy would still rip, but what I saw exceeded and boggled my mind. On the fast wide open sections she would take ragged inside lines drifting at speed with both feet on the pedals, looking forward, sitting up. Exiting with speed. In the woods she hucked and doubled up sections constantly, landing on greasy rooted backsides and off–camber bits completely unfazed. Her trail vision was sneaky and tactical, blindly picking up on the types of lines people seek out on course walks. Most were the type of off–the–beaten path choices I only noticed because she was ahead of me riding them. These split second decisions still came second nature to her. It dawned on me that this was an elite athlete, and that hard wiring doesn’t go away. Her mind still thought three turns ahead and nothing between her ears was telling her to slow down.

We shared a few warm up runs and I grabbed my camera hoping get some gold. I didn’t know what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised by how eager she was to ‘get the shot’. After each section Missy would charge back up claiming she could hit it faster or make her form look better. In one turn I timidly asked if she could keep her foot up drifting out. “No problem” she said nonchalantly. Even when seasoned downhillers get into a big drift it really isn’t a conscious decision whether they end up dabbing a foot or not. Impressive. The second day of riding and shooting she rode in the rain ‘til it was dark, with no gloves and tinted goggles, in a haze and sending it until I ran out of light and threw in the towel. It was refreshing that I didn’t have to ask her to hit sections ‘one more time’ and feel like a beggar like I would on most shoots.

After the dust settled (or should I say tacky dirt) we got things packed up and started blasting back through the mountains, pinning it straight through the night ‘til dawn and into the airport where I narrowly made my flight. This is where I started grilling Missy, hoping to get to the core of her complex character.

Dirt: Since your arrest you’ve been quiet. What’ve you been getting into for work and leisure?

Missy: Doing what’s most important to me! Watching long ocean sunsets with my wife Kristen. Long nights. Loving my family, and nursing my Pit Bulls Carmella and Carmellita before they passed. Working with my wife’s off–the–track thoroughbred. Swimming with sea turtles in love. Saying goodbyes thinking I was going away for pretty long time, BBQ’s, smashing DH runs, drifting, wake skating with Shay, star gazing, creating, freeing my mind, smashing ego, romantic dances in the moon light, playing music, helping and hanging with good friends, hanging with Heckle and Jeckle, moto’ing, going to a mandated weed rehab, petting Pomeranians, going flat out on Dancer (retired race horse), working on the bucket list, hiking with my cat: Maybe Valentine Giove, house arrest, looking at a glass half full, chasing ‘Ubbachuckas’, flying with birds, 4×4 shuttles, multi–dimensional travel, watching puffy clouds, riding dragons, exploring… 

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