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Q+A Marla Streb

The nation's top downhill mountain bike racer--she was the 2003
U.S. National champion at age 38--is the author of the new book
Downhill: The Lifecycle of a Gravity Goddess.

SI: You graduated with a biology-chemistry double major from
Mount Saint Mary's College and earned a master's in marine
biology at Maryland. Aren't you smart enough to know that biking
down a hill at 40 miles per hour is crazy?

Streb: What I was doing before this was much more dangerous. I
was a molecular biologist doing AIDS research. I literally
sometimes spilled AIDS-infected blood on my shoes.

SI: At your age you must feel like a grandmother competing
against these young punks.

Streb: I'm willing to embrace my weaknesses. I don't have to
pretend I'm an 18 year-old superhero. I know I'm kind of old and
kind of uncoordinated and a science nerd, but I don't mind making
that public. Writing the book is egocentric, but telling people
your weaknesses is at least self-effacing.

SI: You posed nude in Outside, and your book cover is
provocative. Do you take guff for that kind of thing?

Streb: The men dig it. My sponsors dig it. But some women are
resentful. They say, "Just because you look feminine and have
C-cup breasts and we only have A-cup breasts, it's not fair that
you should get sponsored." Well, there's not much you can do.
That's the way the world is, and I'm sorry.

SI: Should downhill biking be in the Olympics?

Streb: If downhill ski racing is an Olympic sport, our sport
deserves the same amount of seriousness. It's the same sport,
just different bikes.

SI: What's the fastest you've ever traveled on a bike?

Streb: I once hit 70 on a bobsled track on ice in Italy. We
average between 35 and 40 miles per hour.

SI: You started riding in 1990 as a bike messenger in Baltimore.
What's the strangest thing you delivered?

Streb: Mostly it was just legal documents, but it wasn't what I
was delivering, it was how I would take one-way streets the wrong
way. One time I found myself sliding under a truck. Then I got
hit by the police chief's limo, the fourth time I had been hit by
a vehicle. My career as a messenger ended the next

--Richard Deitsch

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