Morocco: Alex Zanardi preview

SAFE AND SOUND! Hi Everyone, I apologize to you for delaying a bit the report of my latest adventure, but I need all this time to get some pictures of the marathon held last Sunday, and now here I am to tell you something about it. I am...


Hi Everyone,

I apologize to you for delaying a bit the report of my latest adventure, but I need all this time to get some pictures of the marathon held last Sunday, and now here I am to tell you something about it.

I am really happy about the result: Padua marathon is characterized by a fast track, almost entirely on flat land and this is the reason why it has become so popular among the best European handbikers that every year run this marathon to improve their personal best.

The twelfth place could make one think about just a little bit more than a fair result, but in reality I have to say that I am enthusiastic of concluding the 42.195km of the race at only 3' 49'' from the best racers of the category. Finishing not far from my friend Vittorio Podesta' (cat. B world champion and Olympic silver medal) and from Vicente Arzo (silver medal at Beijing in my category, C) is a great satisfaction.

I have to admit that "sucking the wheel" of the peloton helps more weaker bikers like myself than those guys that would have enough strength in their arms to go on their own, but running the entire race at an average speed of almost 36 km/h is a result that honestly goes beyond my happiest expectations.

Stepping back a little, I'd like to tell you a funny story: up to five days before the race I was genuinely worried. Together with friends of Breda Racing and the indefatigable Zanella we designed and built the "Evro", keeping the steering system that equipped the "Lupella" but radically changing my positioning on it. This should have penalized the ergonomy of the bike but with this choice we were hoping to improve dramatically its aerodynamics and the stability, weak points of the Lupella. Early tests held about twenty days ago did not leave me satisfied. Firstly, well aware that my muscles needed to get used to work in a new position for my body, I was slow, was getting tired very easily and my characteristic impatience made me doubt I would have found a way to turn things around in such a short time. Moreover, we had the problem of stability: up to thirty kilometres per hour everything was fine, but after that even the Evro (as the Lupella) became a dangerous and insidious thing.

I was feeling really bad; I involved a lot of people already very busy in my project and the idea of making them waste their energies for nothing made me feel as an idiot.

Luca Zanella had a crucial role in saving the situation. He always pushed me to find an alternative solution to improve the setup of the bike and after increasing the step, inserting contrast springs for steering movement, strengthen flexible points, we reached the conclusion that a new rear shaft had to be made and a linear shock absorber inserted to guide better the movement that allows me to steer the bike.

Meanwhile, my body started to respond in the right way. At first 5km, then 10 and after I while I managed to find a feeling with the bike that allowed me to push my heart to the distance of 50km. Only four days were remaining to the race and on Thursday evening we met at Breda Racing to rebuild that component.

Good luck had the name of "Torresin Titanio", a company based in Padua that we contacted to get a titanium pipe, they not only had that piece available but they also offered it as a free sample. We had to get a miracle out of this pipe and of the absorber OHLINS that friends from "ANDREANI" sent us.

I was not very confident, I have to admit it, and I thought that it would have taken a lot of time to work on this material to produce the new part. Four really skilled persons and half a store boy like myself worked the whole Thursday evening until twelve-thirty and the following morning.

More or less at three on Friday afternoon the Evro was ready to be pushed by my arms once again. I set off with all the eyes on me of people that worked so hard to make this little piece of magic happen. One, two, three thrusts of pedal and. a black cat materialized out of a hedge and crossed my way! I stopped and I turned myself to look at Zanella's face that was rolling on the floor laughing while a guy with a car stops and says: "Great Zanardi, are you running the marathon on Sunday?" I reply: "I hope so" and he goes: "Take care and have a good race".

I couldn't help touching my genitals but, being one that was never subjected to superstition but that always respected it, there could not be a worse debut. Despite all of this, after the first thrusts of pedal I realized that the character of Evro completely changed. The linear absorber now geometrically placed was able to take care of the job that really transformed the bike. Now I knew that I would have arrived to the end of the race, I just had to discover how.

On Saturday, Vittorio Podesta' and his friend Vincente Arzo, winner of the race, came to see me. We set off from my garage for a 30km "stroke". Just the time to get muscles ready for the challenge of the following day and to understand something: my performance deficit toward strong handbikers like them was evident, but the slipstream and the fact that they would have fatigued themselves to get rid of all the others on the flat land would have allowed me to stay close to them should I have run an intelligent race. Vittorio has been important in this. His advices were always right in all circumstances.

After the getaway I found my place within the peloton and when it was necessary I sprinted to get myself to the front before the strongest bikers sprinted to make the peloton "slimmer". I also had the satisfaction to be race leader for a while, but a couple of screams by Vittorio took me back on earth and I got back to the centre of the peloton.

In this way, just sixty of us remained, then thirty and then twenty-five. At about halfway through we reached a fairly long bridge: Vincente and Vittorio started a breakaway attempt that forced everyone to a never-ending sprint. We reached sixty kilometres per hour on the downhill but even more amazingly, for the following kilometre and half we never were slower than 52 km/h.

I do not know if you realize what this means in terms of arms power, but my heart had a precise idea of that; I was at almost 180 beats, too much for me. I waited for them to give up because even if I was in their slipstream, my heart was beating faster and faster. No one in front wanted to stop his sprint. I thought back to the almost sleepless night that my son imposed on me and to the bronchitis I had ten days ago and I didn't work off completely, then I turned back and I noticed that the three guys that we left behind were running very fast and I took the wisest decision: I gave up.

I do not know if I would have managed to stay with the first nine racers that almost finished to the sprint, but I am not repentant at all, I took the right decision.

I gave my best and thanks to the help of all the guys I aggregated to I managed to recover and help with changes, having a lot of fun. I'd like to thank one of the mates of those 15km: Roberto Piccinini, that thanks to his pleasant Brescia's accent cheered me up a lot and gave a lot of useful advices to a rookie like me.

Evro has been a fantastic mate that I will have the pleasure to ride again, perhaps in some marathon close to your place.

At the finish line I was the guest of honour of my friends, my son (that apologized for not allowing me to sleep too much) and my wife Daniela that was not really bothered about my sportive performance but was happy about my being safe and sound.

Obviously, all friends that helped me building this great and innovative bike that a lot of bikers were looking with a mixture of curiosity and jealousy.

1h 11' and 46" not only improves my best time (I speak as a veteran) but it is beyond my declared objective: being faster than an hour and twenty minutes. It has been a good adventure and please allow me to thank all the people that cheered me along the track when recognizing me, they were quite a lot: thanks so much!

Back to the four wheels now. I will set off to Morocco tomorrow, where I will race with my BMW between the walls of the street track of Marrakech.

I am moderately hopeful: at the first ballast "update" my car has been torn apart by the other Bavarian sedans due to the high number of special homologations that accumulated over time on it. First my hand-commands, then the sequential gearbox and finally FIA decided to consider my car as a different model from the other "320si".

This, right of wrong as it may be, will allow me not to have the ballast that my strongest mates obtained with their fastest laps and I have to say that to me this makes a big difference.

We will see how it goes, I have to stay closer to the other guys because the second and a half that I got in qualifying at Puebla could have been less without all the ballast but would still have been unsatisfactorily for one having ambitions as high as his ego.

Guys, I reckon I talked too much. Talk to you from Morocco, ciaoooo!

-credit: alex zanardi

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Series WTCC
Drivers Alex Zanardi