By Tim Maloney, European Editor
Although there was talk that new Italian Cycling Federation President Renato DiRocco might replace Franco Ballerini as Commissario Tecnico (pro team coach) with Moreno Argentin after the controversy at the World Championships last September, Ballerini was re-confirmed in his job by DiRocco and recently took a look back at the 2005 season in a interview with Italian wire service Datasport. Crowned by the first ever ProTour won by Italian Danilo DiLuca, Ballerini felt 2005 was a good year for Italian pro cycling. "The season was a positive one; the results were very good and perhaps the only place where there could have been some improvement was in the northern classics, where we usually excel."
The always astute Ballerini took a look at the key players of the 2005 season, starting with World Champion Tom Boonen. "He was the man of the year. To win Flanders, Roubaix, Tour de France stages and then the World's was something really exceptional. Boonen was competitive most of the year and above all had an incredible level of consistency."
Looking at Italian ProTour winner DiLuca, Ballerini proudly declared, "Danilo was the big protagonist of the season and showed he could achieve many objectives besides just single day races, as he did at the Giro d'Italia where he was 4th." Ballerini was less positive about the turbulent debut of the Pro Tour this season, saying, "There has been a big change for the world of cycling and with this a big problem has emerged: to find a balance between the various forces in the sport and I believe that there needs to be some kind of mediation in the sport to find the right formula."
Ballerini liked what he saw at the Giro this year, saying ,"It was one of the best Giros of the last 10 years, with a lot of possible winners right to the end." Ballero gave props to Discovery Channel's Giro winner Paolo Savoldelli, explaining that "he's a great talent who understood to how to create a great win in the Giro d'Italia. He could do even more as he's such a smart rider who matured a lot at this year's Giro."
As for the Italian flop at this year's World's, Ballerini admitted, "It was certainly the low point of the 2005 season and a disappointment. But that's part of life and it help's one to appreciate the rest of the season." As for Alessandro Petacchi's 2005 performance, Ballerini didn't stir the pot by criticizing Petacchi's poor ride at the Madrid World's, but did say that "Petacchi was fantastic at Milano-Sanremo, and consolidated his position this season by winning at the Giro and the Vuelta."
Looking at Italy's great hope Ivan Basso, Ballerini believes that "with Basso, we now have the confirmation that he can win the Tour de France. Italians have been able to win this race before and I believe that Basso can come back to that again." The Italian CT also saluted retiring Lance Armstrong, saying, "He won his seventh Tour de France, the final one of an extraordinary career. Armstrong was really great to always believe in himself." But turning his eye to doping, Ballerini said, "The Armstrong and Heras cases are bad for cycling. These are not good situations. In Armstrong's case, it was all about the headlines, done in a squalid manner just to make news. As for Heras, we still have to see how this case evolves. But cycling doesn't need this kind of attention."