Ex-Formula One driver and four-time Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi is in an artificial coma after suffering severe head injuries in a horrific cycling race crash.

The 53-year-old Zanardi, who had both his legs amputated after a motor racing accident almost 20 years ago, lost control of his handbike machine while competing in the ‘Obiettivo tricolore’ relay race in Tuscany, Italy on Friday.

According to multiple reports, he crossed the white line into the path of an oncoming track, which was unable to avoid him.

Following the accident, the Italian was airlifted to the Santa Maria alle Scott hospital in Siena where he underwent three hours of emergency neurological surgery for facial head injuries.

A statement released by the hospital said Zanardi is in a “stable” condition in intensive care following his operation.

“He is incubated and supported by artificial ventilation while the neurological picture remains serious,” read the medical bulletin.

Zanardi’s plight was captured in the headlines of all the major Italian sports papers as news spread of the seriousness of his accident.

“No Alex, no!” said Corrierre dello Sport, while Italian prime minister Giusseppe Conte wrote on Twitter: “Come on Alex # Zanardi, don’t give up. All of Italy is fighting with you.”