PHOTO-ESSAY: Creativity, Motocross, & Really Big Mountains | MXGP Trentino, Italy 2023

NOTE: a shortened version of this article was posted over on VURB moto. Huge thanks guys to Chase and Brent for doing that!

MXGP with one hell of a view:

Moto Club Arco is located in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of Northern Italy and his host to an MXGP race every year. I know there are lots of famous motocross tracks out there, but I think anyone would be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful location for a track than this! The track itself is nestled right at the foot of the Brenta Dolimites—it’s a sprawling layout with dark, rocky soil and tons of elevation change. There are two triples on the track and one of them is famously gnarly.

I went this year as a spectator, but also to photo-document and connect with friends I’ve made in the creative community situated around moto here in Italy (more on that later). When I was living in the U.S. I didn’t really follow MXGP, but since being here for around two years now I’ve definitely become a fan. I follow what’s going on with MXGP the same as I follow American moto and supercross. Not unlike Formula One or MotoGP, these guys travel all over the world to race—a season is a grueling hustle to say the least. That said, motocross in general is a big deal in Italy and this track is a popular stop not only because of its layout and natural beauty, but also because of its relatively central location in Europe.

I camped with a buddy walking distance from the track and roamed all over the place like a kid in a candy store taking photos Saturday and Sunday. I was totally wiped out Monday morning. The racing was of course, awesome. You can head over to the MXGP website or instagram to check results or see recaps, but that’s not really what I’ll cover here. I also think the culture around moto in Europe has been pretty well documented at this point with the smoke flares and eardrum shattering chainsaws. We had plenty of that in Trentino, too. Instead, I want to share a glimpse of the show behind the show. There’s a vibrant community of independent creative practitioners hustling their asses off here in Italy—and I’d like to share that. I’ve gotten to know two guys pretty well over the past few years that exemplify this hustle—so much so that it motivates this old guy to grab his camera and do whatever it takes to get the shot.

A media guy photographing media guys photographing professional athletes:

Flash back to the Motocross of Nations 2021…the race was in Italy and I had just moved here. Even though the American team couldn’t come (bummer) I was still pumped to go experience the event. The Italian team won with Tony Cairoli, Mattia Guadagnini, and Alessandro Lupino. On the way out, my buddy and I grabbed two large Monster Energy MXoN banners that were being taken down. Once I got this thing home I realized it was waaaay too big for me to do anything with it.

At the time, I had just followed an instagram account called AstroClub. I vaguely knew these guys had connections to the Italian team—specifically Mattia Guadagnini. So, I shot them a message on instagram to see if they wanted this big-ass banner to commemorate their MXoN title. To my surprise, a guy named Tommy answered almost immediately and said they’d love to have it for their studio. I thought that was super cool—so, I drove South for around an hour to meet up with Tommy in a small town called Dolo just to the West of Venice.

I had no idea what to expect, but in walks this super young and hip guy dressed in all black. I learned that he raced moto for several years when he was younger, but now he was getting ready to graduate from university with a degree in fashion design. At first I was confounded by this unique combination of skills / interests. But then I thought of my own background—former open wheel dirt track racer with an MFA in Graphic Design. Sadly for me though, learning how to intersect/reconcile my creative and racing worlds took more than a decade. I thought damn, here’s a guy that’s fully prepared to hustle. We talked about all kinds of stuff—I learned that he’s leveraging his background in fashion design by making and sourcing material for Mattia’s merchandise. He gave me one of his hoodies in exchange for the MXoN banner and we’ve been in pretty regular contact since.

📸 ⬆️ ⬇️ I had the pleasure of connecting with Tommy (above, white ASTRO shirt) at the Arco GP even though he was insanely busy working with Mattia Guadagnini (above in red) for media appearances, social media, and his youtube series, “Behind,”which Tommy and Mattia Dallapiccola (photographed with Tommy below) fully produce pretty much by themselves.

Mattia G. is a factory rider for team RedBull GasGas. He’s also a creative guy that likes to dabble in film photography among other things that exist independently from his motocross career. It’s nice to see a professional athlete that isn’t afraid to show other facets of their personalities online, albeit I’m sure this is a double-edged sword for him. He’s a very popular man at every GP—but he’s basically a celebrity in Italy. It was overwhelming to see just how many people he had orbiting around him at all times more or less wanting stuff. So much so that I have to admit I felt guilty harassing him and Tommy with my camera, but they were as accommodating as ever.

I think the photograph below captures why the AstroClub collaboration is truly impressive and inspiring—it’s literally three guys running a media hub with a few cameras and phones in real time from the infield of a racetrack—oh, and one of them happens to be knocking out top 5s in the premier MXGP class. A-hem…as an old cantankerous man in his thirties, it’s a little shocking to see how fast they work. I hadn’t even taken anything off my camera’s memory cards yet and they had already shot, processed and posted a mountain of pertinent race content.

📸 ⬆️ ⬇️ Another friend I met later though AstroClub is Federico Cunial (Fede). Fede also has strong connections with Mattia Guadagnini and is currently in independent practice. He’s insanely talented with a camera and demonstrates a ton of range within his scope of practice—shooting everything from moto to crossfit. He was working with Factory Beta rider Allessandro Lupino (photographed above) at Arco and let me tag along to grab a few frames of him in action. Again, I felt guilty interjecting with my camera, but Fede was happy to accommodate by throwing me his trademark Shaka. After getting to know Fede he invited my wife and I to spend a day with him in his home town of Bassano Del Grappa— I could ramble on about our experience there and Fede’s hospitality, but long story short it was amazing!

Motocross & creativity are universal languages:

Both Tommy and Fede are multi-lingual. I more or less feel like a jackass around both of them because I can only speak English fluently. My Italian is coming along, but actual proficiency is sadly still a long way off. Thankfully, our shared love of motocross and creativity is also a kind of nuanced language…and it seems to bridge any sort of gap in formal understanding of spoken languages. It has been so cool to see how far both of these guys have progressed in the short time I’ve known them. They have definitely inspired me to not only up my own game, but also to get serious about actively using my creative skills to explore my passion for racing. Thanks guys!

Taking it all in through my own lens:

I’ll wind down by sharing some of my favorite frames from the weekend. I didn’t have a media pass and definitely wasn’t set up to shoot from long distances, but I was able to worm my way close enough to the track in a few choice spots to capture some solid action. It really is crazy how effortless these riders make ripping berms and sending hundred foot triples look.

⬆️ Sights, sounds, smells, silence—damn, it just felt good to be at the race track. The group of guys in the photo above were our neighbors in the campground. Our grill broke Saturday night and they let us use theirs and offered us beers. There it is again—moto—the universal language! We talked American Supercross with them and it was really interesting hearing European perspectives on what’s going on in the U.S. Eli Tomac and James Stewart came up over and over again when we asked about their favorite riders of all time. I randomly bumped into them in the sea of thousands of people at the races the next day. I had to document their recycled one-liter water bottle approach to beer drinking. Smart move, guys. They offered me one in another suspect looking unmarked bottle, but I had to say no thanks—I was on the job.

If you’re living in the U.S. and a fan of moto, hitting a GP in person or even planning to make the trip across the pond for a MXoN when it’s in Europe is something I cannot recommend enough. I’ve been to a MXoN and two GPs now and I would say just the races alone would make the trip worth it, but when the track is surrounded by spectacular mountains or right outside an ancient medieval city (catch Fede throwing the Shaka at the beginning of the Fried video in that link) it definitely sweetens the deal. MXoN is in France this year…just sayin.’ Maybe I’ll see you there—ciao!