BMW works driver and BMW Brand Ambassador Alessandro Zanardi is set to take on the prestigious Berlin Marathon this weekend and is set for a new challenge.
Zanardi will be using a recumbent handcycle for this race as opposed to his usual handcycle that he has won Paralympic gold medals and eight world championship titles with.
“This is a very exciting event for me and I am really looking forward to it,” Zanardi said. “It is probably one of the most important marathons in the world, with many top athletes from all around the globe, and it is a sporting event that BMW has proudly supported for many years. And most of all, Berlin is a city that is very special for me.”
The ex-F1 and Champ Car driver was treated for the injuries that saw him lose both legs after an accident at the Lausitzring in 2001 so holds Berlin close to his heart. “Berlin is the place where my life was saved and where I was kind of born for the second time. That makes my participation in this event very special for many reasons.”
Zanardi has been preparing for the new experience with a borrowed handcycle from fellow Italian Vittorio Podestà, “From a sporting point of view, it is a completely new adventure for me. I have never tried this type of handcycle before, and when I first jumped on it I had to acknowledge that this is a completely different sport,” he admitted.
“When I am sitting on my normal handycle, my torso moves together with my arms all the time in order to power the bicycle. When cranking, I use every muscle in my body. My abdominal muscles, my dorsal muscles, my shoulders – everything is working. On a recumbent bike, however, you are lying down and just use your arms. In addition, the movements are different to the ones I normally do on my handcycle,” he explained.
Aside from the physical differences to get used to there is also the different view to adapt to, “As you are in a lying down position, you are basically looking at the sky all of the time. It is very difficult to look to the front to see where you are going. For me, the view is a big factor because I am not used to that position,” Zanardi admitted.
“In addition, this type of handcycle is not easy to ride. It has a decent agility, but it is another thing to learn how to use that agility going at high speed on the road. And I am not used to that like the other athletes are.”
With the new challenges faced Zanardi is realistic about his goals for the weekend, “If I had to compete against the best athletes in the world in my class with my handcycle, I would come to Berlin with only one objective – trying to win the marathon. But I am going to challenge the best athletes of the world in a different class with a completely different sports device,” he said.
“So if I could finish among the first group of finishers, I would be extremely happy. I would think that I did an amazing job. It would be like a rally driver competing in a DTM race and finishing on the same lap as the winner. I am very excited about this because life is about having new experiences, and this will for sure be a very interesting one for me. I will give my very best and let’s see what this new adventure brings.”