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Alex Zanardi returns home from hospital 18 months after handcycle crash

BARCELONA SPAIN SEPTEMBER 30 Former Formula One driver and paracyclist Alex Zanardi poses after finishing IRONMAN Barcelona on September 30 2017 in Calella Barcelona province Spain Photo by Alex CaparrosGetty Images for IRONMAN
Alex Zanardi at the 2017 Ironman Barcelona (Image credit: Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

Para-cyclist and ex-racing driver Alex Zanardi has been discharged from hospital a year and a half after suffering severe head injuries in an accident with a truck while competing in the Obiettivo Tricolore relay race.

The 55-year-old, who raced in Formula 1, Touring Cars and CART before losing his legs in a 2001 racing accident, has been competing in para-cycling since 2007 and has since won 12 world titles and four Paralympic gold medals on the bike, also winning the Venice, Rome and New York marathons.

His wife Daniela announced the news of his return home from hospital earlier this week in an interview with BMW, the car company for which Zanardi is an ambassador.

"An important step was that Alex was able to leave hospital a few weeks ago and is back at home with us now," she said. "We had to wait very long for this and are very happy that it was possible now, even if there are still temporary stays in special clinics planned for the future to carry out special rehabilitation measures on site."

Zanardi was taking part in the Obiettivo Tricolore relay race alongside Daniele Bennati last June when he lost control on a descent near Siena and collided with a truck on the other side of the road.

He suffered severe facial and head injuries as a result of the crash and was subsequently placed in a coma, undergoing a series of neurosurgical and maxillofacial surgeries.

A year ago, it was reported that Zanardi had regained his senses of sight and hearing and was able to respond non-verbally to those around him, and his rehabilitation – working with doctors, physiotherapists, neurologists, and speech therapists – was ongoing this year.

"The recovery continues to be a long process," said Daniela. "The rehabilitation programme led by doctors, physiotherapists, neuropsychologists and speech therapists has enabled steady progress. Of course, setbacks are there and can still occur. Sometimes you also have to make two steps back in order to make one step forward. But Alex proves again and again that he is a real fighter.

"Different programmes Alex did in hospital, are continued at home now. During the week, a therapist works with him, and they do physical, neurological and logopedic [speech] exercises. In regards of his physical condition, there is a lot of progress. Alex has more and more strength in the arms, that has increased a lot. And, other than in hospital where he was in bed a lot, Alex now spends most of the day in the wheelchair with us. He just rests a bit in the afternoon after lunch.

"You still can’t predict how his recovery will further develop. It is still a long and challenging way that Alex tackles with a lot of fighting spirit. It is a big help for him and us that we receive so much support on this way, not only from the doctors and therapists that intensively work with him. Our friends are always there for us. We would like to express a big Grazie to all who send their good thoughts and power to Alex."

In July, the investigation into the crash was closed by the investigating judge, dismissing the charge of negligent personal injury against the truck driver. The prosecutor had asked the judge to do so having not recognised "any causal link between the conduct of the driver and the road accident".

Zanardi's family disagreed with the ruling, arguing that Zanardi's movement and subsequent loss of control on the handcycle were in response to the truck partially crossing the centre line – by around 40cm – of the road.

This week brought good news, too, for Swiss cycling agent Johnny Carera, who was released from intensive care three weeks after a truck travelling the wrong way down the A4 motorway near Milan crashed into his car.

Carera, who – alongside brother Alex at A&J All Sports – represents Tadej Pogačar, Vincenzo Nibali, and Elisa Balsamo, was awakened from an artificial coma at the start of the month after suffering broken ribs, a punctured lung and broken shoulder in the crash.

He is now able to breathe on his own without intubation and will continue his recovery in the cardio-respiratory rehabilitation centre in Niguarda Hospital in Milan.

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Daniel Ostanek

Daniel Ostanek has been a staff writer at Cyclingnews since August 2019, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later part-time production editor. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news and features, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content throughout the season.


Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a España.