El campeón humano
Carlos Sastre, the 2008 Tour winner, will show us how you can stay humble even after having been on top of the world.
A three-times Guinness World Records winner and ultracycler, Paola Gianotti is a normal woman first, who loves her home, her family, her grandchildren and the small town where she lives, Ivrea, near Turin. Her life drastically changed in 2013 when she decided to cycle around the world, completely turning her ordinary life upside down to pursue a dream. The dream of a normal person, who achieved extraordinary results thanks to her willpower. Since then, this has been the exact same feature and purpose of everything Paola has done: dreams can be achieved, normal people can do extraordinary things.
Shortly after graduating in economics and business, she started to work in Milan in the financial sector; a routine job she found too strict for her vibrant personality. So, Paola decided to go back to Ivrea and open a small event planning company. The first signs of the crisis that has forced many businesses, especially small ones, to close since 2008 started to show. 2013, a key year for Paola, came along: she reached the decision to completely change her lifestyle by committing herself to her greatest passions, mainly related to sport, to make a job out of them. First goal: breaking the record for cycling around the world. Only one other woman had tried it before her: it was time to do better and go down in history. Obviously, you can’t just go from an office desk to a bicycle seat in a matter of days. Paola already had some impressive sport experiences: keen on sports and travelling since she was born, she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2011, she tried to climb Aconcagua in 2012, giving up after 7,000 metres due to weather conditions, and in 2013 she crossed the coast of Greenland by kayak.
The gruelling workouts began, along with everything that comes with planning a similar endeavour: sponsors, logistics, communication. All built from scratch, thanks to the commitment of all those people that Paola immediately managed to gather around her. Over a year and a half after that first idea, she finally set off March 8th 2014! Paola mounted her bike in Ivrea and, not without fears, excitedly faced the thirty thousand kilometres that stood between her and the finish line. November of that same year, she made it: the fastest woman in the world, she travelled 29,430 kilometres in 144 days, setting a yet to be beaten world record. But it wasn't all easy. Halfway through, in the Arizona desert, a serious accident threatened to compromise everything: a herniated cervical disk forced her to stop. Hospitalization and rehabilitation made her realize that she was now a symbol of strength and bravery for thousands of people all over the world; men and women who live the same ordinary life Paola has managed to escape from, mothers and fathers who see her challenge as an example to follow when dealing with everyday problems.
After the mishap, Paola Gianotti once again became a different person. She met children, young people, adults in many cities of Italy and beyond; she told them her experience, and brought words of encouragement to help overcome the difficulties of life. Her following sport enterprises, starting from the project «48 states in 43 days» in the USA, all shared this same philanthropy and social awareness. In May 2016, Paola set off with more than one goal on her mind: breaking a new world record, and collaborating in the emancipation of women from Uganda to live a better life. How? With a bike! Thanks to her collaboration with Africa Mission Cooperation and Development and the concrete support of its followers, she bought and personally delivered 73 bicycles to the poorest, most disadvantaged area of the Uganda, where a means of transport such as a bicycle can really change a life. To do so, she crossed all 48 contiguous states of the United States of America in just 43 days, setting her second Guinness World Record. And so, Paola became a public figure: she wrote «Sognando l'infinito» (Dreaming about infinite), published by Piemme, took part in events, prizes, met school children and, in 2017, she established her third record by crossing Japan in just nine days to complete the project in Uganda and help build a workshop for bicycles. The following year, she was a torch-bearer for Samsung at the Pyongchang 2018 Winter Olympics.
Meanwhile, she did not forget her social commitment, born from the tragic death of Tommaso Cavorso, a boy from Tuscany who was killed on the street while he was training on his bike, and the meeting with his dad. Paola determinedly engaged with the association founded in Tommy’s name, taking part in the campaign «I respect cyclists» that asked for traffic laws to include rules that explicitly safeguard cyclists. Paola Gianotti’s last endeavour, which she tested in 2018 and is confirmed for the year 2019, was based exactly on this campaign: she covered all the stages of the Giro d'Italia, the same route as the male champions, a day earlier, to raise awareness on the safeguard of cyclists on the road.
Today, Paola is a fulfilled woman. It took time and strength, the same qualities she tries to teach others through her activity as a motivational coach. She continues to train on a bicycle and is currently working on her second book. Dreaming is possible. It is essential. But what Paola achieved is not a simple dream: «Keep Brave, never give up» is a motto that results in real actions aimed at the less fortunate. The «48 states in 43 days» initiative is a shining example: achieved with Nobili’s support, not only did it set a Guinness record but it also brought hope to the women of Karamoja. Paola chose to personally deliver 73 bicycles - more than the 48 that had initially been planned, purchased thanks to her followers’ support - to women living in the poorest region of Uganda: the bike was more than a mere «object», but rather hope for a better future. The support provided by Africa Mission, a non-profit organization founded by Monsignor Manfredini and Fr Pastori, was fundamental in the distribution of the bicycles. Director Carlo Ruspantini and documentary filmmaker Eloise Barbieri were with her during this important event. The bikes were produced in Uganda in order to contribute to the growth of the local economy, thanks to the creation of a small workshop for repairs as well; in this way, many women have had the opportunity to change their lives by being able to move, also between a village and another. «I hope this is the start of future projects in Africa», Paola states. «And I believe that making people independent is the only way to make them grow and feel truly free». Paola teaches us how important it is not to give up, and always belive in ourselves. Every venture is a special occasion to help people with concrete actions or sensitize about ecological themes or related to the respect of the cyclist. Paola is also a motivational speaker and coach: she usaually says that a dream can be realized but before you must have it because everyone can do extraordinary things with work and determination. If you wish to support her challenges and help Paola in her philanthropic records, contact her on the website keepbrave.com.