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Gallery: Franco Ballerini at Paris-Roubaix

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Franco Ballerini's 1995 win delighted his legions of fans.

Franco Ballerini's 1995 win delighted his legions of fans.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini after his final Paris-Roubaix in 2001, which he finished in 32nd place.

Franco Ballerini after his final Paris-Roubaix in 2001, which he finished in 32nd place.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Franco Ballerini finished 11th and 8th in Paris-Roubaix in his two seasons at Lampre, 1999 and 2000.

Franco Ballerini finished 11th and 8th in Paris-Roubaix in his two seasons at Lampre, 1999 and 2000.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Franco Ballerini's win in 1995 came aboard the iconic Colnago C40.

Franco Ballerini's win in 1995 came aboard the iconic Colnago C40.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Filippo Pozzato paid an emotional tribute to Franco Ballerini as he crossed the line at the 2010 Paris-Roubaix.

Filippo Pozzato paid an emotional tribute to Franco Ballerini as he crossed the line at the 2010 Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Stuart O'Grady, Tom Boonen, Filippo Pozzato and Fabian Cancellara led the minute's silence for Franco Ballerini before the 2010 Paris-Roubaix.

Stuart O'Grady, Tom Boonen, Filippo Pozzato and Fabian Cancellara led the minute's silence for Franco Ballerini before the 2010 Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Victory in sight. Franco Ballerini enters the Roubaix velodrome in 1995.

Victory in sight. Franco Ballerini enters the Roubaix velodrome in 1995.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini on the podium of the 1995 Paris-Roubaix.

Franco Ballerini on the podium of the 1995 Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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At long last. Franco Ballerini basks in his 1995 Paris-Roubaix victory.

At long last. Franco Ballerini basks in his 1995 Paris-Roubaix victory.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini wins the 1995 Paris-Roubaix.

Franco Ballerini wins the 1995 Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Johan Museeuw finished 3rd behind his teammate Franco Ballerini in 1995.

Johan Museeuw finished 3rd behind his teammate Franco Ballerini in 1995.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini kisses the famous cobblestone trophy in 1995.

Franco Ballerini kisses the famous cobblestone trophy in 1995.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini on the podium in 1995.

Franco Ballerini on the podium in 1995.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini and Mapei's Alvaro Crespi in the Roubaix velodrome in 1995.

Franco Ballerini and Mapei's Alvaro Crespi in the Roubaix velodrome in 1995.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Angelo Zomegnan, then a journalist with Gazzetta dello Sport, congratulates Franco Ballerini on his 1995 Paris-Roubaix victory.

Angelo Zomegnan, then a journalist with Gazzetta dello Sport, congratulates Franco Ballerini on his 1995 Paris-Roubaix victory.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini bids an emotional farewell to Paris-Roubaix in 2001.

Franco Ballerini bids an emotional farewell to Paris-Roubaix in 2001.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini believed he had won the sprint for victory in 1993. The photo-finish proved otherwise.

Franco Ballerini believed he had won the sprint for victory in 1993. The photo-finish proved otherwise.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini was in fine form at Paris-Roubaix in 1993.

Franco Ballerini was in fine form at Paris-Roubaix in 1993.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The canny Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle stuck to Franco Ballerini's wheel on the final lap of the Roubaix velodrome in 1993.

The canny Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle stuck to Franco Ballerini's wheel on the final lap of the Roubaix velodrome in 1993.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Last minute preparations for Franco Ballerini at the start in Compiegne in 1993.

Last minute preparations for Franco Ballerini at the start in Compiegne in 1993.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini was supported by Mario Cipollini and Johan Museeuw in a strong GB-MG team in 1993.

Franco Ballerini was supported by Mario Cipollini and Johan Museeuw in a strong GB-MG team in 1993.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The Ballerini fan club at the 1995 Paris-Roubaix.

The Ballerini fan club at the 1995 Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini tells Daniel Mangeas how he won the 1995 Paris-Roubaix.

Franco Ballerini tells Daniel Mangeas how he won the 1995 Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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A delighted Franco Ballerini in the Roubaix velodrome, 1995.

A delighted Franco Ballerini in the Roubaix velodrome, 1995.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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It was a Mapei 1-2-3 in 1998, with Franco Ballerini coming home ahead of Andrea Tafi and Wilfried Peeters.

It was a Mapei 1-2-3 in 1998, with Franco Ballerini coming home ahead of Andrea Tafi and Wilfried Peeters.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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A dejected Franco Ballerini after learning that the judges had found in favour of Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle in the sprint in 1993.

A dejected Franco Ballerini after learning that the judges had found in favour of Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle in the sprint in 1993.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini gleans some late words of wisdom from Alfredo Martini ahead of the 1993 Paris-Roubaix.

Franco Ballerini gleans some late words of wisdom from Alfredo Martini ahead of the 1993 Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini with GB-MG teammates Mario Cipollini and Johan Museeuw on the eve of the 1993 Paris-Roubaix.

Franco Ballerini with GB-MG teammates Mario Cipollini and Johan Museeuw on the eve of the 1993 Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini in relaxed mood ahead of the 1993 Paris-Roubaix.

Franco Ballerini in relaxed mood ahead of the 1993 Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini rode generously throughout the 1993 Paris-Roubaix.

Franco Ballerini rode generously throughout the 1993 Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini leaves British champion Sean Yates behind at the 1993 Paris-Roubaix.

Franco Ballerini leaves British champion Sean Yates behind at the 1993 Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini lost out on the 1993 Paris-Roubaix by the tightest of margins to Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle.

Franco Ballerini lost out on the 1993 Paris-Roubaix by the tightest of margins to Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini was a dominant winner at the 1998 Paris-Roubaix.

Franco Ballerini was a dominant winner at the 1998 Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini believed he had won the 1993 Paris-Roubaix when he crossed the line.

Franco Ballerini believed he had won the 1993 Paris-Roubaix when he crossed the line.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Mario Cipollini and Franco Ballerini before the start of the 1993 Paris-Roubaix.

Mario Cipollini and Franco Ballerini before the start of the 1993 Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini celebrates his second Paris-Roubaix victory in 1998.

Franco Ballerini celebrates his second Paris-Roubaix victory in 1998.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini signs on ahead his victorious 1998 Paris-Roubaix.

Franco Ballerini signs on ahead his victorious 1998 Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini celebrates in the velodrome at Roubaix in 1998.

Franco Ballerini celebrates in the velodrome at Roubaix in 1998.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini crosses the line victorious in 1998.

Franco Ballerini crosses the line victorious in 1998.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The big screen heralds Franco Ballerini's impending arrival on the Roubaix velodrome in 1998.

The big screen heralds Franco Ballerini's impending arrival on the Roubaix velodrome in 1998.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini celebrates his second Paris-Roubaix victory in 1998.

Franco Ballerini celebrates his second Paris-Roubaix victory in 1998.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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A young Franco Ballerini in Del Tongo colours at the 1990 Paris-Roubaix.

A young Franco Ballerini in Del Tongo colours at the 1990 Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini off the front at the 1990 Paris-Roubaix.

Franco Ballerini off the front at the 1990 Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Franco Ballerini returned to Mapei to end his career at Paris-Roubaix in 2001.

Franco Ballerini returned to Mapei to end his career at Paris-Roubaix in 2001.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)

Paris-Roubaix is a race that brings more heartbreak than happiness, and few riders understood that better than the late Franco Ballerini. Twice a winner of the great race, the Italian’s victories were a lesson of perseverance, coming as they did after he had endured one of the most traumatic defeats in classics history in the famous old velodrome at Roubaix.

In April 1993, Ballerini must have felt that he was at the peak of his powers. Then 29 and backed by the likes of Johan Museeuw and Mario Cipollini in the GB-MG line-up, Paris-Roubaix looked to be running to script when he forced his way clear with the veteran Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle.

Coming through the Carrefour de l’Arbre, Ballerini’s directeur sportif Patrick Lefevere urged him to try and shed himself of the wily Duclos-Lassalle. Though apparently tiring, the Frenchman fought tooth and nail to withstand Ballerini’s efforts, and the pair arrived together at the gates of the velodrome.

Forced to lead out in the sprint, Ballerini appeared to be the stronger, and while both men threw their bikes to the line at the same time, the Italian threw his hands into the air as he circled the velodrome after the finish, convinced that he had taken the win. His elation would soon turn to anguish, however. After a lengthy and careful review of the photo-finish images, the commissaires ruled that it was in fact Duclos-Lassalle who had won the sprint, by a mere 8 millimetres.

As Duclos-Lassalle stood on the podium celebrating his second consecutive win, a dejected Ballerini swore never to return to Roubaix. Asked if he had made any mistakes, Ballerini shook his head forlornly: "My mistake was becoming a professional cyclist."

Twelve months later, however, Ballerini was back on the pavé, but in spite of a strong performance in an epic edition of Paris-Roubaix, he had to settle for third place behind Andrei Tchmil. Redemption would have to wait another year, but that can only have made it all the sweeter.

In a dry and dusty Paris-Roubaix in 1995, Ballerini was far and away the strongest man on show. Resplendent in the famous cubes of the Mapei squad and astride the groundbreaking Colnago C40, his was a dominant victory. He simply took flight on the pavé to put almost two minutes into a chase group marshalled by his teammate Museeuw. “I was walking on water, just like Jesus,” a euphoric Ballerini said afterwards.

An often-forgotten fourth in Mapei’s 1-2-3-4 of 1996, only a string of mechanical problems denied Ballerini from entering the velodrome alongside Museeuw, Gianluca Bortolami and Andrea Tafi. Two years later, his second Paris-Roubaix victory did arrive, and it was as crushing a display as has been seen on the cobbles in the recent past, as Ballerini put more than four minutes into his teammate Tafi to enter the pantheon of Roubaix greats.

Two seasons at Lampre followed, but that third Hell of the North win would prove elusive, and fittingly, Ballerini returned to Mapei in 2001 to bring the curtain down on his career by riding Paris-Roubaix one final time. He entered the velodrome in 31st place, but his ride was a celebration nonetheless, as he unzipped his jersey to unveil a t-shirt reading “Merci Roubaix.”

After almost a decade as Italian national coach, Ballerini was tragically killed in a rallying accident in February 2010, but his legacy at Paris-Roubaix endures.

For a gallery of Ballerini's experiences at Paris-Roubaix, click here.