Family and friends gather to remember Pais-Roubaix winner
Franco Ballerini's family, friends and former teammates will gather in his home town of Casalguidi today, to remember the former Pais-Roubaix winner and Italian national coach. Ballerini was killed exactly three years ago, while taking part in a car rally near his home.
Ballerini twice won Paris-Roubaix during his 16-year career and finished second in 1993, beaten in a close sprint by long-time rival Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle. He was a natural team leader and went on to become Italian national coach. Under his leadership, Italy won seven world titles and gold in the road race event at the 2004 Athens Olympics with Paolo Bettini.
Bettini is now the Italian national coach and will be joined by other former teammates such as Max Sciandri and Luca Scinto at a special memorial service in Casalguidi after a visit to Ballerini's grave.
Ballerini loved riding Paris-Roubaix and personified everything that is special about the race. He only won ten races during his professional career but he won Paris-Roubaix twice, in 1995 and 1998. He also finished second in 1993 and was third, fifth and sixth on other occasions. Ballerini retired in 2001 after finishing the race for the last time. He crossed the line in the Roubaix velodrome showing a T-shirt with the words 'Merci Roubaix'.
Race organisers ASO introduced a special memorial cobble stone trophy that is awarded to the first Italian rider at the finish in the Roubaix velodrome, as a way of remembering Ballerini.
Ballerini was involved in the project to bring the world road race championships to Florence and the Elite men's road race at the world championships will pass by the cemetery in Casalguidi, where Ballerini is buried.