“It was wonderful. Today all these guys are Alex. But not just today, they all carry a piece of him with them”. These are the words of Daniela Manni, Alex Zanardi’s wife, who wanted to send a written message to the Obiettivo3 athletes who completed the great relay race on Sunday afternoon.
Daniela watched the arrival in secret, on a videocall from Tuscany, she said nothing but decided to send this brief but touching message to all those who took part. The mission Alex fought so hard for has come to an end, with the last two stages from Porto Cesareo, stopping at Santa Cesarea Terme, and bringing the baton to Santa Maria di Leuca, to Piazza Giovanni XIII, in Italy’s heel where the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet. There, where sailors raised the Obiettivo Tricolore flag to the sky, that symbol of this project of rebirth, at the end of a day packed with incredible emotions. Carrying the baton to the finishing line were the relay cyclists who had been assigned that role from the start, Samantha De Montis and Andrea Quarta, as well as the coach Piero Dainese, accompanied by nearly 30 Obiettivo3 athletes, in yet another project that counts on the support of its partner Cetilar.
Initially they weren’t supposed to be there, but after Zanardi’s accident they decided to come at all costs, with a tiring 20-hour journey in two days. Because this relay race, which started out on 12 June from Luino (with a stage through the Port of Pisa), launching a message of recovery for Italy following Alex’s accident, had an even more symbolic value. The aim was to complete the journey that Zanardi was particularly fond of, offering a further show of encouragement for the champion in this time of need. And when they reached the finishing line, all the athletes burst into some very liberating tears.
As with all the previous stages, on their arrival the para-cyclists were welcomed by a crowd of emotional and cheering fans, joining in the message for Alex. Leading the caravan to the end with Barbara Manni was Pierino Dainese: “This result is dedicated to Alex”, the coach said. “The enthusiasm of all the people we met along the way bears witness to how much the champion is loved, and what he has given to all of us”.