In the year that he turned 40, Max Biaggi must surely believe that his defense of the World Superbike title he won on the Alitalia-sponsored factory Aprilia RSV4 in 2010 took place under a dark cloud. For it certainly didn't go the way the Italian had expected.
It didn't help that the man who would eventually take the title from him, fellow MotoGP graduate Carlos Checa, scored a double victory in the opening round in Australia aboard a factory Ducati - a bike that wasn't expected to even be in the series. And it went downhill from there.
There was the slapping of Marco Melandri incident after an on-track altercation at Donington Park; the ignored meatball flag that turned into a disqualification; getting beaten by Eugene Laverty in race one at Monza, then getting penalized with a ride-through in race two while holding a five-second lead; the broken foot at the Nurburgring. And the list goes on. And on. In fact, Biaggi didn't score his first win until Aragon and he only won once more after that in what was a rather dismal title defense.
We were given the opportunity to ride Biaggi's RSV4 at the Misano Circuit in Italy while Biaggi was on the disabled list with his foot injury. So the bike came to Misano direct from the German round - complete with the one-inch thick butt pad attached to the rear of the seat that Biaggi uses to push himself forward on the bike. Oh, and it also had the street-pattern gearshift that's another of Biaggi's trademarks - an idiosyncracy he shares with fellow World Champions Chris Vermeulen, Wayne Gardner and Kevin Schwantz. Good company.
For the rest of the story see this week's issue of Cycle News...