Italian national cycling coach and former Paris-Roubaix winner Franco Ballerini died on Sunday morning after being involved in a crash during a rally car event in Tuscany, Italy.
According to La Gazzetta Dello Sport, Ballerini, 45, was competing in the rally within the municipality of Larciano as a navigator for pilot Alessandro Ciardi when their vehicle left the road and crashed.
Both were rushed to nearby Pistoia Hospital where despite the efforts of doctors Ballerini passed away soon afterwards.
Ballerini rode as a professional between 1986 and 2001. He won Paris-Roubaix twice, in 1995 and 1998. The cobbled Classic was also his last race as a professional when he retired in 2001.
He quickly became the Italian national professional men's road coach and was in charge of the team that won the rainbow jersey with Mario Cipollini in 2002, Paolo Bettini in 2006 and 2007, and most recently with Alessandro Ballan in Varese in 2008.
Paolo Bettini also won a gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics under Ballerini's management.
Cyclingnews spoke to Pat McQuaid as the UCI President was about to board a plane for Vancouver, Canada. He hadn’t heard the news, and was stunned to hear of Ballerini’s passing.
“What can you say - it is a tragedy for Italian and world cycling,” he stated. “He was a very good figure in the Italian team over several years now, creating an importance within the Italian cycling as regards to the title of World professional Champion.
“[The World Championships] has been his biggest day every year with the Italian team. He had a very successful tenure as coach, and he was also a great cyclist too. It is a tragedy that he goes like this.”