BMW News

BMW brand ambassador and factory driver Alessandro Zanardi had a big race on Sunday—only it wasn't in a race car. This time Alex was competing in his other passion, Ironman endurance racing. The event, just completed in Pescara, Italy, was Zanardi's first real test of the year, and was basically an Ironman with distances at half the lengths of a full Ironman triathlon.

Competing in his home country of Italy, Alex completed the entire 70.21 miles in 4 hours, 26 minutes, and 58 seconds. This time earned him 26th position overall out of 1,100 competitors and provided Zanardi with valuable experience he will use in preparing for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii on October 14, 2017.

The Ironman 70.3 in Pescara started with a 1.18-mile open-water swim. Then the racers transitioned to a 55.9-mile bicycle section through the Abruzzo Mountain foothills. Alex used his handcycle for this portion of the race. The third leg of the triathlon was a running section of 13.1 miles along a beach promenade and through downtown Pescara. Zanardi competed in this leg in his Olympic wheelchair.

“The atmosphere was just fantastic at Pescara," said Zanardi. "There are not only a lot of athletes taking part, but also many spectators. And it was great as everybody showed their support for me. The race itself was very good, although the swimming portion was hard. The sea was rough and they changed the course, but it was still very difficult, especially for me. In the big waves it is really hard for me to swim with no legs. I drank a lot of seawater. But nevertheless, I think regarding the performance I swam really well.”

 “In the cycling portion I was really powerful, and this confirms that the training I did so far this year pays off and that I am a better athlete than I was in the past in this type of competition,” Zanardi continued. “After that, I jumped into my Olympic wheelchair and I know that I also have a big improvement in that area, but the time I did in Pescara did not show that. A big portion [of the] running section was held in a park and the roads were very narrow and twisty, which made it difficult to race there with an Olympic wheelchair. But overall I am pleased and encouraged with my performance. I think that I still have a lot to do, but I know that everything goes into the right direction. Now let’s wait and see what I will be able to do in Klagenfurt.”

 The Klagenfurt to which Alex referred is the full-distance Austria-Kärnten Ironman that will take place on July 2, 2017. This will use the same distances Zanardi would see at the Hawaii World Championships, with a 2.36-mile swim, 111.8 bicycle section, and a full 26.2-mile marathon.

Throughout his career, Zanardi has been an inspiration on many levels, but none more so than his quest to conquer the Ironman.—Scott Blazey

[Photos courtesy of BMW AG.]