Sitting in the Fiat Yamaha hospitality unit, interviewing Valentino Rossi's confidant, Uccio, I become aware that the table we are sitting at is shaking.
The pulses are uneven and I can't figure out where the chatter is coming from. Once, when Uccio looks away searching for words, I look quickly under the table and realize that he is so nervous about the interview that his legs and hands are shaking, that he is grasping the table to stop his hands from gyrating.
Uccio is Rossi's best friend, has known him since they were children and is the nucleus of the Rossi inner circle. They are together 24/7 for weeks and months at a time. Even though his friend and boss is a worldwide media sensation, Uccio is not a willing participant in the glitteratti; a simple interview request has his brow wet with sweat and his hands shaking like he needs Methadone.
Uccio is speaking in Italian and English, with a pretty translator from Fiat drafted in at the last moment to help. I ask a question, she translates it to him, he answers her in Italian. Then she and he then answer in Italian and English. At the same time.
I tell him that his life must be much like the characters in the HBO series Entourage. He stares back, says he has never seen a television program named Entourage.
Earlier in his career, Rossi raced with an Italian phrase on his leathers, one which loosely translated meant something like "Bring on the pussy". There is a near-constant swarm of girls hovering around the Rossi camp, the romantic possibilities must be alluring for Uccio. In rock and roll, it is said, the roadies get all the girls.
In obvious disappointment, he shakes his head slowly, like the reality is more painful than anyone can imagine. "No. Even at the end of the night they want Valentino. Only Valentino," he says glumly.
The shaking and sweating continues. His devotion to his friend and the innocence that radiates from him instill sympathy. I decide to cut the pain short and get him on his way before he becomes ill. I ask for his best Valentino Rossi story.
Uccio runs his hands through his brown hair nervously, peers out the garage door, looks back, mulls for a moment and then says:
"When we were kids, young kids, we had a scooter, Valentino and I. We rode it all day and every day, very fast in our little town of Urbino. Sometimes we were with our other friends on their scooters and we were menaces in the street. The police were chasing us almost every day and people were complaining about us. Graziano (Rossi's father) was getting more angry every day. We always said that it would never happen again, but it did and was getting worse.
"So, one day, we wake up in the morning and go outside and are going to get on the scooter and we see that while we were sleeping, Graziano had removed the engine from the scooter."
"I was so upset; I don't remember being more disappointed ever in my life. It just took something ... from you," he says as he motions to his body.
"Valentino, though, was only sad for a moment. He looked at the bike and thought for a second and he said 'Come on Uccio, help me push this bike."
"So we push it to the a very tall hill and we get on the bike with no engine and we start down the hill. Instead of using brakes, this time Valentino uses no brakes almost and we are soon going down the hill very fast, faster than ever before. It is quiet and the wind is smashing our faces."
"I remember then, and can see it now in my brain, Valentino looking back at me as we rushed down the hill and him saying, "See! It's even better!"