Italian bicyclist Paola Gianotti attempts world record bike ride, gets hit by car near Parker

Paola Gianotti really loves cycling.

“I started training 2 years ago for this project, so, more or less, I was cycling every day for 6 or 7 hours,” says Paola.

So what kind of project is Paola talking about? It’s a big one: she wants to be the fastest person to travel around the world on a bicycle.

“It was a dream. I love bike (cycling) but I’m not a pro. I think that it's important to demonstrate to people that everybody can do everything,” says Paola. “If you have a dream, you can get it.”

Her world record attempt was off to a great start, from a huge send-off from her native Italy, to successful treks across most of Europe and South America.

“And then I went here in USA, from Miami to San Francisco,” says Paola.

But before she made it to San Francisco, Paola was making great time across Arizona, averaging about 100 miles a day. But just outside of Parker, Arizona, there was a major setback.

“I remember a lot of pain in my back,” recalls Paola. “I couldn't understand what was happening, only that my back was in a lot of pain.”

It was a horrific accident. A truck rear-ended a big rig, bounced off, and ran right into Paola. She landed hard on her head, smashing her helmet breaking her 5th vertebrae.

“I feel really lucky to be here talking to you, because it could really be worse,” says Paola.

So now she waits, not knowing if she will be able to ride her bicycle again, something she won’t know until her broken vertebrae heals. She also doesn't know if the folks at The Guinness World Records will let her resume her ride from Arizona when she's ready. But make no mistake, she has every intention of breaking that world record.

“I want to finish it. I worked a lot for this project, so I want don't want to come back now. I need to finish,” says Paolo.

Paola is now going through physical rehab here in the Valley, and is making it a personal mission of hers to help change the state’s distracted driver laws.

She is working with James Goodnow with the Valley Law Firm, Fennemore Craig, to look into the texting and distracted driving laws in Arizona, if investigators conclude that’s what caused her accident. 

Goodnow says our laws in Arizona are some of the worst in the country. Paola says she wants some good to come from this tragedy and Goodnow has agreed to take up her case pro bono. He says it’s the right thing to do.

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