Missy Giove was halfway through unloading 410 pounds of high-grade California pot from a trailer into a garage surrounded by dense woods in upstate New York when she spotted the tracking device in the trailer wall. "I knew we were fucked," she remembers. Panicked, she sped off in a white F-150 pickup dragging the trailer with hundreds of pounds of weed still inside.
Giove was on the outskirts of Albany, not far from the Vermont border, where Saratoga Lake links to the Hudson River. She had a custom mountain bike and dirt bike in the trailer and contemplated an escape down the river and through the woods in hopes of losing the surveillance plane that was already circling above. Her chances were better than most. Giove has won three national downhill-mountain-biking events, two World Cup titles, and two world championships.
"I wanted to run so bad. But at that point, they knew who I was," says Giove. "I got rid of some phones I had on me, rolled a big fat joint, lay in a lounge chair, and watched the plane for, like, three hours above me – whirling, whirling, whirling."
The Feds had learned of Giove's pot-dealing operation four days earlier, when Illinois state police pulled over a 26-year-old woman whom Giove paid $3,000 to move the pot from California to New York. The driver told the DEA everything, including that she had made the cross-country trip at least three times in recent months. Each time, Giove would meet her at a Barnes & Noble in upstate New York, and take the truck and trailer to a secret location where its contents would be broken into smaller, more manageable shipments. To avoid jail, the driver agreed to set up her boss by delivering the trailer with a GPS device wedged in the wall.
Eventually, dozens of armed agents wearing bulletproof vests materialized at the kayak center where Giove had parked. She asked if she was getting punked. Nobody laughed. They found more than 200 pounds of weed in the trailer. A few miles away, at the home of Giove's business partner, a scruffy 30-year-old named Eric Canori, agents uncovered more than a million dollars in cash, foreign bank statements, maps of storage containers around the country, dozens of pounds of weed, and a box of gold bars.
Five years after retiring as one of the most decorated female cyclists ever and among the first commercially successful extreme athletes, Missy "the Missile" Giove was facing the possibility of 40 years in a federal lockup for being the main transporter in a multimillion-dollar pot operation.