Sunday, February 7, 2010

Franco Ballerini, RIP

Fans and competitors of professional cycling alike mourn the loss of one of cycling's great stars of the last two decades, as Italian Franco Ballerini died today as a result of injuries sustained when the rally-car in which he was acting as race navigator crashed this morning.

Ballerini will be best remembered by riders and fans of his own generation as a key member of the fiercely dominant Mapei-GB team, for which he rode from 1994-98. His impact on riders of the following generation was just important as, after his own retirement from the pro ranks in 2001, Ballerini managed the Italian National Cycling Team from 2002 on, leading the squadra azzura to four World Championship titles as well as to an Olympic gold medal.

Franco's career included several victories and many, many more hard-fought days in the saddle riding in support of his own teammates. Like many, I'll always remember him most clearly for his two firsts and a second in the most infamous of spring classics, Paris-Roubaix: getting nosed out on the line by Gilbert Duclos-Lasalle in 1993 and then going on to win in both 1995 and 1998.

Rest in peace, Franco. Franco Ballerini (December 11, 1964 – February 7, 2010).

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