My Top 4 Female Mountain Bike Icons

Paola Pezzo was a good bet to win everytime she lined up at the start.
Paola Pezzo was a good bet to win everytime she lined up at the start. (photog unknown)

So my new pal and fellow Specialized Trail Crew* reject Mountain Biking Girl [UPDATE Oct. 2011: She is now a member of the Canadian Trail Crew … congrats!] was recently lamenting the lack of women in mountain biking. And she’s right. Show up to a group ride, and it will overwhelmingly be a bananarama. My theory is that the combination of few prominent female riders and too many tech-talking geeks in the shops leads to fewer women.

Let’s address the prominent female riders thing. I read the mountain bike mags, pretty much all of them. What I don’t see is quite the focus on the sport’s personalities. Consequently, it seems that there is no personality.

Contrast that with that wonderful Golden Age of mountain biking – those grand times when you replaced every stock bolt on your bike with titanium. Downhill forks had three inches of travel. Anodized purple was the order of the day. You could get a high-quality steel-framed bike at any shop. Back in those days, the sport had personalities. And some of the greatest of them sported two X chromosomes. Here are my four favorites, in no particular order cause they all freakin’ rule (there are lots of honorable mentions like Ruthy Mathis, but these are the ones that, for me, stand above the rest).

If you saw this behind you, you'd soon get a view from behind.
If you saw this behind you, you'd soon get a view from behind. (photog unknown)

Juliana Furtado – Astride her sleek GT Xizang, she pounded the competition into submission – smiling the whole way. A great competitor who was always gracious to foes and fans. After smoking the cross country field on the titanium Xizang, she’d hop on an RTS and take the downhill field apart, too. Her Wikipedia entry does her no justice.

Missy “The Missile” Giove – You want to talk about personality” She’s had it in spades. Famous for her exploits aboard various Cannondales and Yetis, she was a fearless rider. The Missile was also known for wild hairdos and wearing a dead piranha around her neck. She was recently arrested on suspicion of conspiring to possess and distribute over 400 pounds of marijuana, which further adds to her rebel image.

Paola Pezzo – An Italian cross-country racing fembot/model who brought a heavy dose of Euro style and flash (along with a freakish cardio system). Gold lame shorts and a carbon Gary Fisher Procaliber were de rigeur for her, and she was a winning machine the likes of which wouldn’t be seen until Ricky Bobby pissed excellence in Talladega Nights – and he was fictional! She won the inaugural women’s mountain bike Olympic gold medal, among other things. Scary fast. She has a Web site, but I’m not linking to it since it’s an incredibly annoying Flash-based site.

Marla's a latecomer to the party, but she's going strong.
Marla's a latecomer to the party, but she's going strong. (photog unknown)

Marla Streb – Like Juli, Marla was -and still is!- just as proficient at climbing trails as she is going down them. She’s won a boatload, despite getting involved in the sport at age 28. She exudes  joy for riding and racing. She’s still involved today, both in racing, teaching women’s clinics and building trails in places like Costa Rica. Marla also rips it up on a singlespeed, and lives on a boat. How much cooler can you get” None. None more cool, though she could update her blog more often.

Have I forgotten your favorite female rider” Show me the error of my ways in the comment section!

*Yes, it appears that neither of us got selected for the Trail Crew. That just means I can continue with my plan to have Curtlo build me a sweet steel frame!


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By Wandering Justin

Writer. Traveler. Gastronomic daredevil. Fitness fan. Homebrewer. Metal dude \m/. Cat and dog lover.


  1. Good call. Way to stick up for your Canadian homegirl! She certainly went on a tear in her day, too.

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