Alex Zanardi won gold on day one in South Africa ©Getty Images

Italy won four gold medals on day one of the International Cycling Union Para-cycling Road World Championships in Pietermaritzburg.

Three titles were also won by Germany as time trial action took centre stage in the South African city.

Alessandro Zanardi won a ninth world title for Italy as the former motor racing driver won the men's H5 class.

The 50-year-old, a quadruple Paralympic champion who lost both of his legs after a motorsport accident in 2001, won in 37min 47.96sec.

Silver was won by Tim De Vries of The Netherlands, two seconds back in 37:50.59.

Portugal's Luis Costa won bronze after clocking 38:35.47.

Francesca Porcellato also claimed Italian gold in the women's H3 time trial.

The reigning time trial and road race world champion battled back after a serious injury saw her lose the use of her right arm two months before the Rio 2016 Paralympics.

Porcellato, who still won two bronze medals in Rio in September, said: "I am just so happy.

"I worked a lot for this. 

"I wanted this medal, and I wanted this colour. 

"My win today is good for me mentally."

The winning time was 31:16.70 with Poland's Renata Kaluza timed at 33:14.03 for silver.

Bronze went to Slovakia's Anna Oroszova in 33:52.38.

Luca Mazzone was another Italian crowned as world champion today  ©Getty Images
Luca Mazzone was another Italian crowned as world champion today ©Getty Images

Luca Mazzone and Paolo Cecchetto also tasted gold for Italy in the men's H2 and H3 classes respectively.

A time of 29:19.00 was enough for Mazzone to win, as American William Groulx won silver in 29:25.63.

Sergio Muaoz Garrote of Spain won bronze in 31:21.98.

Cecchetto clocked 39:30.59 for his gold medal. 

Switzerland's Heinz Frei won silver in 39:55.97 and bronze went to Charles Moreau of Canada in 40:22.98.

Germany's gold rush was headed by Hans-Peter Durst, who won at the age of 59 in the men's T2.

He won in 27:41.14 as American Ryan Boyle managed 27:57.17 for silver.

Bronze went to Stephen Hills of New Zealand in 29:21.08.

Christiane Reppe and Andrea Eskau added further German golds in their respective H4 and H5 categories.

Reppe came home in 32:08.05 with silver going to Sandra Graf of Switzerland in 33:21.34 and the bronze to Russia's Svetlana Moshkovich in 33:22.44.

Eskau triumphed in 27:47.61 to claim a big win over silver medallist Laura De Vaan of The Netherlands, who stopped the watches at 29:06.63.

Bronze went to another Dutchwoman as Jennette Jansen ended on 30:09.82.

More time trial action will be held tomorrow.