THE ITALIAN JOB

By: Ryan Cooley

Photos: Alessio Barbanti, Ryan Cooley, and Scott Wynn

When I found out that I’d be heading to Italy to participate in the 2004 Husqvarna Show and Ride, I had no idea what I was in for. All I knew was that only three weeks into my new gig here at TransWorld MX I had an all-expenses-paid trip to Milan for the week, and I was pumped! To the veteran guys in the office, who happened to have prior engagements booked that week, the five day trip to the boot-shaped country just didn’t sound quite as appealing. Maybe it was from the hundreds of trips already logged in their travel archives, or perhaps the thought of consuming ten courses of pasta at each and every meal that turned them off, but nevertheless, I got the nod and quickly began honing my international communication skills. You know, so I could do my part to be a responsible traveler.

After searching high and low, and then high again, for my lost passport, I conceded and dropped a couple hundred bucks to speedily replace it. I had a couple quick conversations with Cagiva USA’s Rob Keith, who helped to make my travels run smoothly, and I was off…

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?

Before I get ahead of myself, let me first explain the purpose of the trip. Husqvarna, now residing in Italy, was born in Sweden in 1903. After an explanation from Rob Keith and some quick math, it didn’t take me long to figure out that they’re celebrating their 100th anniversary this year. In addition to the milestone anniversary, Husky looked to make a big impact with their 2004 Show and Ride to help spark and reignite a brand that all but fell off the map in ’02 and ‘03. Do to unforeseen market conditions, MV Agusta, the parent company to Husqvarna, looked to rekindle their financial flame by merging with another Italian company, but unfortunately, the merger fell through. To add insult to injury, MV Agusta’s manufacturing plant was flooded, destroying a large percentage of Husky’s inventory. Now back on their feet and 100% dedicated to delivering top quality motorcycles to the US market, Husqvarna Italy and Cagiva USA (Husky’s U.S. importer) treated journalists from some of America’s top motorcycle publications to a few days of riding and Italian entertainment to demonstrate the good times to come.

Joining me from the U.S. on the trip abroad was Trail Rider Magazine’s “DJ Q-Tip,” Paul Clipper, Dirt Bike’s Ron Lawson, Jimmy “Don’t Bother Me, I’m Sleeping” Lewis from Cycle World, Kit Palmer from Cycle News, and Racer X’s “Bad” Billy Ursic. In addition to the American crew, Husky played host to other journalists from around the globe, making this a totally international affair.

Here’s how things shook down…

AREVADERCE

After two “gia-normis” lines, three security checkpoints, and six full body cavity searches (I doubled back to hit each checkpoint twice), I finally made it to my gate, and with plenty of time to wack down a frosty before jumping on the plane. Yep…it was on, and I couldn’t wait to get to Italy to ride the new Husqvarnas. First things first, though… If I was going to get my body clock adjusted to Euro time, I was gonna have to do some serious sleeping on my flight. So after a delightful meal of roasted cardboard and mixed green something, I laid my head against the almost vertical seat-back, pinned my knees against the seat in front of me, and I went for it! Next stop, Amsterdam.

RED LIGHT DISTRICT

With exactly ZERO minutes of sleep under my belt, I departed the plane in Amsterdam for a short four-hour layover, feeling like I’d just had a ton of bricks dropped on my head. After another cavity search through customs, I spotted three oiously American gentleman that looked as beat-up as I felt. As a baby in motocross journalism, I didn’t know their faces initially, but I certainly recognized their names. I’d hooked up with Ron Lawson, Jimmy Lewis, and Kit Palmer. All on the same page, we made our way to the nearest bar and fired up a pitcher of Heineken (Thanks Husky!). Despite my tired, weakened state, I was feelin’ it! This was clearly the beginning of good things to come.

I spent the next couple of hours enjoying stories from these seasoned veterans, and gained a little more insight into what this trip would most likely offer. For those of you that don’t know, Jimmy Lewis is quite the accomplished two-wheeled warrior and even has a near win at the Paris to Dakar rally on his resume. If you know how gnarly that event is, you’ll understand when I tell you that Lewis’ stories are second to none.

Interrupted only by Kit’s constant requests to go visit the infamous “Red Light District,” we powered through our layover and boarded our next trusty aircraft.

MALPENSA

After a quick two-hour flight into Milan/Malpensa International Airport, we were finally on Italian soil. Scott Wynn from Cagiva USA flagged us down at the baggage claim and we were off. On the way out to our transportation for the week, a dope-ass Euro van dipped on deuces with three-wheel motion, Rob Keith joined us, and the six of us hit the road. Ten minutes later we rolled up on the Hotel Cavalieri Della Corona, which would be our digs for the week, and crawled off to our rooms for a quick breather before our ‘Meet and Greet Dinner.’

I was quick to settle into my room in anticipation of a little nap before the evening’s event, but even after the long, sleepless journey, the anticipation of the rest of my adventure left my eyes bugged wide open. After staring at the ceiling for about an hour, I popped up, caught a quick shower and cruised into the hotel lobby. Little did I know this would become my crew’s home away from home for the next four evenings.

At the ‘Meet and Greet’ I met the rest of the US journalists, consisting of “DJ Q-Tip” and “Wild” Bill Ursic, as well as the main man behind this trip, Cagiva USA’s head honcho, Larry Ferracci. After the intros and a little bit of B.S., we threw a few back and then plowed through our first of many meals consisting of 36 courses of pasta (Thanks Husky!). The overall vibe of the evening was that of exhaustion, so it didn’t take long before we all decided to retire for the night and get ourselves ready for day one of moto. I pranced back to my suite, did my usual pre-sleep routine (consisting of 300 sit-ups, 300 push-ups, and an hour of yoga), and then hit the rack.

CIGLIONE DELLA MALPENSA MX (A.K.A. “The Husky Track”)

“Ahhh… I feel refreshed. I must of slept 15 hours last night. What time is it anyway? What the… Get the… Oh killer, I slept 35 minutes!”

Despite the lack of sleep, when I caught my first glance of the track, I was stoked! The thought of two full days of riding on a perfectly manicured motocross track made me feel all giddy inside. When I jumped out of our Euro van I was caught a little off guard, though. It felt like I’d just jumped into a Jacuzzi! That’s right, we were rockin’ 90-degree temps and 235% humidity. Is that possible? Anyway, after snapping a few photos and a quick track walk with my new pal Bill, I suited up and prepared for the ’04 Husqvarnas.

This feels like a pretty good time to throw out a big thanks to my main man “L-Diggity” (That’s Larry Ferracci to the layman). Larry busted his ass to make sure the U.S. journalists were well taken care of, and even arranged for a special fleet of bikes, just for us. The fleet, unfortunately, only consisted of Husky’s Enduro line of bikes (TEs), but I was assured that we’d have full access to the motocross bikes on day two. Don’t get me wrong, though… We rode the TEs all day long and had a blast. But I am just a moto guy at heart, and I definitely prefer an MXer when a freshly prepped track’s involved.

ANTI-ATKINS SAUNA

After a quick shower, we all gathered in the hotel bar for a little R&R (Thanks Husky!) and then jumped in our bucket to roll out to a pretty cool restaurant on the lake, somewhere in Italy. The guys and gals at Husky continued to impress as they rolled out the red carpet and treated us to another great meal, complete with a 100th Anniversary Husky cake and everything (Thanks Husky!). The only real bummer of the evening was the lack of air conditioning at this joint. Opting for the windows open routine, the heat and humidity rivaled that of a sauna, and the mosquitoes were in full force! Little did we know that these guys were just rookies. We ran into a serious gang of bloodsuckers later in the trip. Once again we ate enough pasta to make Dr. Atkins roll over in his grave, but boy was that stuff tasty (Thanks Husky!).

BIKE TESTS

Still stuffed full of pasta, we made our way back to the Husky track bright and early the next morning. Ursic and I were excited to get back to the track for our second and final day of riding because we knew we’d be spending it aboard Husky’s motocross bikes. After a quick photo shoot with GP photographer, Alessio Barbanti, I took to the rest of the track and had a solid day on Husky’s entries in the big-bore four-stroke (TC450) and tiddler class (CR125). Husky also has a brand-new 250cc four-stroke and a 250cc two-stroke, but because we won’t be seeing those bikes in the states in ’04, I stuck to the other two steeds.

I have to say that I was thoroughly impressed with both bikes. Upon first impression, I became quite convinced that both of these machines could compete in their respective classes in the motor department. That’s right, Husky’s power plants are solid and a lot of fun to ride. The track stayed relatively smooth during our testing, so it’s difficult at this point to critique the suspension and overall handling of the bikes too much. They did feel well balanced, cornered great, and offered comfortable ergonomics, however, so the potential is certainly there. Stay tuned as we’ll most likely be bringing you a more in-depth bike test very soon.

After we’d ridden until our hands were about to fall off, we loaded up the van and headed out for a really cool afternoon tour of the Husqvarna manufacturing facility. In full swing when we arrived, it was really neat to see how those assembly lines function.

I’d like to send out a big thanks to all of the Husky mechanics that worked around the clock during our testing days to make our experience even better (Graci!).

PIZZA AND BEER

Without a doubt the coolest two evenings of the trip were spent when the core group of us Americans split off from the rest of the international group, and did our own thing. Fed up with ten-course meals, and with Larry Ferracci and his smooth-talking Italian tongue at the helm, we crashed a couple of pizza joints and did this thing right. With bottomless beers (Thanks Husky!), the best authentic Italian-style pizza I’d ever sunk my teeth into, and never-ending stories from eight of the nicest guys in our industry, the nine of us left our mark on Italy. Oh…and the mosquitoes left their marks on us. Looking back, though, those pesky bloodsuckers did nothing but add a little flavor and some pretty funny stories to our trip abroad.

MILANO

On our only free day of the trip, Bill, Scott, Rob, and I jumped a train into Milan and did a little bit of sight seeing. Bill, fully strapped with his Gucci fanny pack, lookeuro line of bikes (TEs), but I was assured that we’d have full access to the motocross bikes on day two. Don’t get me wrong, though… We rode the TEs all day long and had a blast. But I am just a moto guy at heart, and I definitely prefer an MXer when a freshly prepped track’s involved.

ANTI-ATKINS SAUNA

After a quick shower, we all gathered in the hotel bar for a little R&R (Thanks Husky!) and then jumped in our bucket to roll out to a pretty cool restaurant on the lake, somewhere in Italy. The guys and gals at Husky continued to impress as they rolled out the red carpet and treated us to another great meal, complete with a 100th Anniversary Husky cake and everything (Thanks Husky!). The only real bummer of the evening was the lack of air conditioning at this joint. Opting for the windows open routine, the heat and humidity rivaled that of a sauna, and the mosquitoes were in full force! Little did we know that these guys were just rookies. We ran into a serious gang of bloodsuckers later in the trip. Once again we ate enough pasta to make Dr. Atkins roll over in his grave, but boy was that stuff tasty (Thanks Husky!).

BIKE TESTS

Still stuffed full of pasta, we made our way back to the Husky track bright and early the next morning. Ursic and I were excited to get back to the track for our second and final day of riding because we knew we’d be spending it aboard Husky’s motocross bikes. After a quick photo shoot with GP photographer, Alessio Barbanti, I took to the rest of the track and had a solid day on Husky’s entries in the big-bore four-stroke (TC450) and tiddler class (CR125). Husky also has a brand-new 250cc four-stroke and a 250cc two-stroke, but because we won’t be seeing those bikes in the states in ’04, I stuck to the other two steeds.

I have to say that I was thoroughly impressed with both bikes. Upon first impression, I became quite convinced that both of these machines could compete in their respective classes in the motor department. That’s right, Husky’s power plants are solid and a lot of fun to ride. The track stayed relatively smooth during our testing, so it’s difficult at this point to critique the suspension and overall handling of the bikes too much. They did feel well balanced, cornered great, and offered comfortable ergonomics, however, so the potential is certainly there. Stay tuned as we’ll most likely be bringing you a more in-depth bike test very soon.

After we’d ridden until our hands were about to fall off, we loaded up the van and headed out for a really cool afternoon tour of the Husqvarna manufacturing facility. In full swing when we arrived, it was really neat to see how those assembly lines function.

I’d like to send out a big thanks to all of the Husky mechanics that worked around the clock during our testing days to make our experience even better (Graci!).

PIZZA AND BEER

Without a doubt the coolest two evenings of the trip were spent when the core group of us Americans split off from the rest of the international group, and did our own thing. Fed up with ten-course meals, and with Larry Ferracci and his smooth-talking Italian tongue at the helm, we crashed a couple of pizza joints and did this thing right. With bottomless beers (Thanks Husky!), the best authentic Italian-style pizza I’d ever sunk my teeth into, and never-ending stories from eight of the nicest guys in our industry, the nine of us left our mark on Italy. Oh…and the mosquitoes left their marks on us. Looking back, though, those pesky bloodsuckers did nothing but add a little flavor and some pretty funny stories to our trip abroad.

MILANO

On our only free day of the trip, Bill, Scott, Rob, and I jumped a train into Milan and did a little bit of sight seeing. Bill, fully strapped with his Gucci fanny pack, looked the part of the ultimate tourist and charged around Milan like a little kid in a candy store. After lunch, our elderly contingent, Scott and Rob, tired out and headed back to the hotel. “Bad” Billy and I decided to chill a little longer in the fashion capitol of the world, and ended up putting in some serious mileage around the city. Armed with sore necks, mine from spinning around like a Rain Bird to catch a glimpse of all of the beautiful women, and Ursic’s from window shopping for his girlfriend, we hitched a train back to the hotel and called it day.

CIAO!

On our final day in Italy we were treated to a World Championship round of Super Motard at the famous Manza Formula One circuit (Thanks Husky!). Although slightly impressive at first glance, by the end of the day, I was ready to move on. No offense to the riders, as they clearly work hard to excel in the sport, but it just didn’t deliver the same chill that I get at an AMA outdoor national. We cut out just in time to pack our bags, grab some dinner, and get some shut-eye before our early morning flights back to the States.

The morning came quickly, but that was fine by me. I knew that in about 15 short hours I’d be landing back at LAX. We all said our goodbyes and our “up-doggs,” and we were out. I look forward to hooking up with the Italian Job crew again someday. Maybe in our home towns, maybe in Italy for another Husky event, or if all goes as planned…maybe spinning vinyl in Ibiza with our boy “DJ Q-Tip.” Ciao!

 

 

 

 

ooked the part of the ultimate tourist and charged around Milan like a little kid in a candy store. After lunch, our elderly contingent, Scott and Rob, tired out and headed back to the hotel. “Bad” Billy and I decided to chill a little longer in the fashion capitol of the world, and ended up putting in some serious mileage around the city. Armed with sore necks, mine from spinning around like a Rain Bird to catch a glimpse of all of the beautiful women, and Ursic’s from window shopping for his girlfriend, we hitched a train back to the hotel and called it day.

CIAO!

On our final day in Italy we were treated to a World Championship round of Super Motard at the famous Manza Formula One circuit (Thanks Husky!). Although slightly impressive at first glance, by the end of the day, I was ready to move on. No offense to the riders, as they clearly work hard to excel in the sport, but it just didn’t deliver the same chill that I get at an AMA outdoor national. We cut out just in time to pack our bags, grab some dinner, and get some shut-eye before our early morning flights back to the States.

The morning came quickly, but that was fine by me. I knew that in about 15 short hours I’d be landing back at LAX. We all said our goodbyes and our “up-doggs,” and we were out. I look forward to hooking up with the Italian Job crew again someday. Maybe in our home towns, maybe in Italy for another Husky event, or if all goes as planned…maybe spinning vinyl in Ibiza with our boy “DJ Q-Tip.” Ciao!