Four years after her arrest, Giove, 41, sits on an oversize white sofa in an ocean-view penthouse apartment in Virginia Beach, where she is serving out her three years left of probation. She's with her wife of four years, Kristen (they took a second honeymoon in Niagara Falls the night before her final court date), and is sporting a black-and-white Vans mesh hat and a Brooklyn Nets jersey that reveals dark tufts of armpit hair. Large black tattoos of varying fonts drape her sculpted torso. Gone are her bleached dreadlocks of the 1990s, replaced by lush brown curls.
Giove's day-to-day routine doesn't exactly break the terms of her probation, but it does show she hasn't slowed down much. The first order of business for the weekend is to buy Giove new flip-flops, because she broke her current pair while drunk the night before. At brunch, over a margarita with a Corona dumped in, she debates whether to take out a surfboard, a paddleboard, or a skimboard for the day (she decides on body surfing). After roasting on the beach for a few hours, we bomb around town in her topless '89 Jeep. We seek out a bald eagle's nest at a nearby state park, observing, with a rare moment of silence, a baby eagle, and soon stop at the liquor store for a bottle of tequila.
Giove talks about how she'd love to race one more season despite orders from neurologists that she remain retired from the sport, probation terms that prohibit her from leaving the state, and the fact that she still suffers from chronic headaches and the occasional seizure. She admits that it's an imperfect ambition and knows the sport is dominated by youth – last year's female world champ was 22. Even though she is not actively training for a comeback, Giove insists that on the right course on the right day, she'd be a serious contender. "I have the speed," she says. "They say I shouldn't hit my head ever again, but I'm gonna have to live my life."
Few professional downhillers can parlay their skills into a lifelong career. And while Giove leveraged her wild-child image into a hefty partnership with the Volvo-Cannondale team in the 1990s and appeared in Reebok commercials as well as on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, she was unable to keep the contracts coming. After retiring, Giove could have gone to work for a big brand, but daily marketing meetings and hawking products at trade shows isn't work that aligns with Giove's temperament. "I've been in this sport for 28 years and can tell you the hardest part about downhill racing is that once you're at the top, you're done," says Steve Gravenites, an industry vet who was Giove's team mechanic for several seasons.
As the afternoon winds down, Giove wonders aloud whether she'll be called in for a random urine test that week and complains about an upcoming shift at a nearby bike shop, where she works to keep her probation officer satisfied. "If I could ever convince my probation officer to let me leave Virginia, I think I could go to the world championship and have a serious shot," she says. "It's really fun to be on the total edge."