– For each minute of your existence there runs a parallel unknown thread which may suddenly and unexpectedly break and disrupt your life forever. This unknown thread I call ‘master fate’, the master of everyone of us, even though we are not aware of his presence. When he decides to act, his action is imperative and brooks no argument. –
Fate had in store for me the rest of my life as a disabled on a wheelchair. My past life as a sportsman, with absolutely rewarding results, had taught me to set objectives and to be ready to face and tackle all sorts of difficulties. Yet I am unprepared to my new condition and I sort of get stuck. I keep looking for new objectives, yet I spend most days without any impulses and passively keep living along a calendar which seems to be filled with blank pages. While trying to sort out of this plight I get to know a girl who fascinates me and who seems to return my affection and love. We live together for some time then we decide to get married. I move to Piacenza, where I meet new people and am offered to coach the local footbal team which plays in Division 2 (serie B). After a few years, however, my wife and I decide to separate and divorce, so I leave Piacenza and come back to Parma. Meanwhile the new millennium begins and I am still looking for new stimuli and vital impulses. The forced physical inactivity of these first years as a disabled impair my stamina to a point which I can no longer accept, so I decide to go back to gyms and fitness centres. I spend much time trying to tone up the muscles and quite by chance, in May 2006, after noticing my proportions, an acquaintance suggests I should try a new sport called handbike. Then I thought that real and constant aerobic exercise could be the healthiest and least invasive way to improve my conditions. The first impact was really embarrassing and I wondered whether to keep on practising, but my love for challenge and my never-forgotten competitive spirit were a winning spur towards going on. Hell’s bells! I was a former European champion and it was worth proving to myself and to the others.
Journeying along panoramic roads without the need to drive a car helped me feel an active part of nature and that feeling strengthened my determination. Little by little I start familiarizing with the bicycle and decide to enrol for marathons. The greatest hindrances to these new and unknown efforts are my weight (107 kg) and my remarkable strength still lacking endurance. In order to sensibly improve my fitness I rely on the help of a cycling trainer; I train regularly and ride the first marathons with satisfactory results. I realise it will be very hard, if not impossible, to excel in the sport, I become aware of my possibilities and draw a new scheme of feasible targets.
It is at the beginning of fall 2007 that I feel perfectly fit. At this stage, however, master fate knocks once again at my door and forces me to stop. Anyway I do not want to give up the practice of aerobic regneration and try not to give way to despair. I am hospitalized in Milan for the removal of a tumor, which proves to be malignant. Anyway a couple of weeks after discharge I managed to complete the 2007 Carpi marathon. My friend-trainer follows me in the race and at the end says,’You have done something unbelievable today. Not just because you have completed the marathon, but for the way you did it’. This makes me think about all the efforts and hardships I have been through and urges me to start with fresh enthusiasm.
As a consequence I take interest in the different types of cycling races and try to get as much information as i can. This is how I got to know about RAAM (Race Across America), which is apparently the most extreme and exhausting race a cyclist can undertake. In fact you have to ride coast-to-coast across the States, about 5,000 km to be covered in one stage and as fast as you can. In accordance to the rules you cannot qualify unless you reach the finishing line within 48 hours from the arrival of the first contestant, who usually takes 8 or 9 days.
I have a flash of inspiration. Why not try a change in my life as a disabled? Why not tackle a challenge I can throw myself into heart and soul? Why not set an important target for my future?
Of course I am not going to try anything extreme. I have already had plenty of disadventures and problems in my life and I am not looking forward to facing new ones. However it must be a challenging aim and possibly unique for the world of disabled people. Therefore I sketch the idea of riding across America alone. I estimate pros and cons, what support I can get, change my mind and focus on a new project.
Here is my new project ‘on the road’:
– ‘I go to the States, get on my handbike and ride all along Route 66 from the centre of Chicago to the seafront of Santa Monica over 3,755 km.’ –
The turning point dates from January 2008. The desire to face the adventure becomes a fixed idea, a sort of obsessive objective. I draft a broad programme in which I consider would-be sponsors, estimates of costs, information about weather conditions, dates, etc. I get information about the route through Internet. I draft the following brochure of presentation and eventually come to the decision that:
– ‘THE CHALLENGE CAN BE UNDERTAKEN; I WILL CARRY OUT MY PROJECT IN 2009’ –