Meet Cycling's Glamour Hammer
The media see Niki Gudex as one of the beautiful people. We love her for being a downhill champion. If we were shallow, we'd be like the men's magazine FHM, which named Australian national downhill series champion Niki Gudex one of the world's 100 most beautiful women. Or we'd be like Inside Sport magazine, which dubbed her "sexiest sportswoman." But at Bicycling, we're deep thinkers.
We know the real story is that, finally. the sport of mountain biking has found a successor to Paola Pezzo, the Italian glamour-hammer who wrapped up two Olympic mountain bike gold medals before retiring in 2000. Unlike, say, tennis, which has been stuck with the hapless Anna Kournikova, our sport's idealization of femininity sat atop the podium. That was cooler than Pezzo's gold lame shorts.
A former elite level snowboarder, Gudex was recovering from a trampoline training accident in 1999 when some friends convinced her to try a downhill mountain bike race. She burst out of the start gate on a Cannondale F1000 hardtail equipped with SPD pedals but without matching shoes to click in - and won the Sport category anyway. Within two years, she was the pro Australian national DH series champion.
Along the way, the 24 year old has defied a stereotype - the one about skinny cyclists being lousy downhillers. The slight, 5 foot 4 Gudex weighs just 110 pounds - her Foes DH Slammer weighs more than one-third her body weight. In her first international competition, she finished a more than respectable 21st at the 2001 World Championships in Vail, Colorado.
Which only goes to show the woman's chops. Next year she'll compete in cross country racing, an endurance sport better suited to her body type. If she can power that light weight frame up steep hills, her prodigious downhilling skills could be devastating. Not that she'll give up downhill altogether. Gudex plans on racing both XC and DH at the Australian national series, and possibly at the Sea Otter Classic. After that: the NORBA and World Cup circuits.
"I'd like to do both DH and XC for as long as possible," she says. But her newest sport is likely to win out. "I'd like to be at a level high enough to compete in Athens at the 2004 Olympics in cross country," she says. We think that would be beautiful.
Profile: Joe Lindsey. "Meet Cycling's Glamour Hammer" Bicycling USA Magazine, November 2002 Issue.