They didn’t like each other because they were opposites. Different sides of the same coin: Max Biaggi and Valentino Rossi.
The introvert rider from Rome, reserved and, oftentimes, blunt in his testy manners, and the extrovert, exuberant, and amicable rider from Pesaro.
They couldn’t stand each other, and they didn’t hide it.
From Max’s: "wash your mouth out before saying my name,” at Suzuka, to their fight on the podium at the Barcelona Grand Prix.
And so began, in today’s Corriere dello Sport, the recollection of an unforgettable season in motorcycling: the years of competition between Max Biaggi and Valentino Rossi. The accomplished champion and the rampant rookie.
Theirs wasn’t a devised rivalry. There was even some slapping involved. But the result was epic races.
Was it risky? Yes, but we’re talking about champions who, after having assessed each other in the pitlane, knew how to behave themselves on the track.
Not that there weren’t complaints about this or that incorrect behavior, but those were words dictated by adrenaline. Which is a bit of a rider’s drug.
They each thought the exact same thing about one another: he’s a jerk.
But this didn’t stop them from acknowledging each other’s skill in private.
“I read that Valentino placed me first place among his rivals,” Biaggi told Corsport. “I’m delighted because we fought some good fights together and wrote a nice story based on rivalry. A long time has passed since then, and I’m almost 48. In a certain sense, I was in the same situation that Rossi is today: I was racing against younger rivals. It happens. It’s the law of sports.”
Then Max adds, with the consideration of a 48-year-old…
“You mature with age, and certain things appear clearer to you than they were at that time. No, I wouldn’t change what I did and who I was, but maybe I should have behaved differently. I never made any allies. I was always hard and, in a certain sense, pure. I thought that a team and a bike were enough for my speed, but that’s not the case. Perhaps, today, I would behave differently.”
“No, I have no regrets of any kind. I’m a coherent person. I wouldn’t change anything of what I did. Mine is an analysis. You don’t just race with a throttle, but what little you can do outside makes a big difference.”
The famous details. Those that determined the renowned defeat in 2004 at Welkom, in South Africa.
“A real disappointment. I used the wrong tactic and got caught up in the competition without realizing that the laps were passing by. I felt horrible when I saw the checkered flag. I thought I still had a ride at my disposal. I had just finished the fastest lap of the race and had another one to spare. If I think about it today, I still get a not in my stomach, but that’s how races go.”
Complete interview by Paolo Scalera in today’s Corriere dello Sport.