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Italian cycling celebrates the 2010 season

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Cheers! Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali will be careful not to tread on each other's toes in 2011.

Cheers! Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali will be careful not to tread on each other's toes in 2011. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Bettini in conversation with Eddy Merckx.

Paolo Bettini in conversation with Eddy Merckx. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alfredo Martini, Paolo Bettini, Eddy Merckx and Francesco Moser share their wealth of klnowledge at the Gran Gala.

Alfredo Martini, Paolo Bettini, Eddy Merckx and Francesco Moser share their wealth of klnowledge at the Gran Gala. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Bettini took over as national team coach from the late Franco Ballerini.

Paolo Bettini took over as national team coach from the late Franco Ballerini. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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World champion Giorgia Bronzini was honoured at the Gran Gala.

World champion Giorgia Bronzini was honoured at the Gran Gala. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Bettini and Eddy Merckx pictured at the Gran Gala.

Paolo Bettini and Eddy Merckx pictured at the Gran Gala. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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As ever, a large crowd gathered in Conegliano Veneto for the Gran Gala.

As ever, a large crowd gathered in Conegliano Veneto for the Gran Gala. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Eddy Merckx takes care of the champagne while Ivan Basso, Thor Hushovd, Vincenzo Nibali and Giorgia Bronzini share a joke at the Gran Gala.

Eddy Merckx takes care of the champagne while Ivan Basso, Thor Hushovd, Vincenzo Nibali and Giorgia Bronzini share a joke at the Gran Gala. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Eddy Merckx on stage with Davide Cassani.

Eddy Merckx on stage with Davide Cassani. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Bettini and Alfredo Martini were among those honoured.

Paolo Bettini and Alfredo Martini were among those honoured. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ivan Basso, Thor Hushovd, Vincenzo Nibali and Giorgia Bronzini cutting the cake at the Gran Gala Ciclistico Internazionale.

Ivan Basso, Thor Hushovd, Vincenzo Nibali and Giorgia Bronzini cutting the cake at the Gran Gala Ciclistico Internazionale. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alfredo Martini, Paolo Bettini, Eddy Merckx and Francesco Moser at the Gran Gala Ciclistico Internazionale.

Alfredo Martini, Paolo Bettini, Eddy Merckx and Francesco Moser at the Gran Gala Ciclistico Internazionale. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Italian national coaches past present: Paolo Bettini and Alfredo Martini.

Italian national coaches past present: Paolo Bettini and Alfredo Martini. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The great Rudy Altig catches up with Eddy Merckx.

The great Rudy Altig catches up with Eddy Merckx. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ivan Basso's Giro d'Italia win was recognised.

Ivan Basso's Giro d'Italia win was recognised. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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World champions Thor Hushovd and Giorgia Bronzini at the Gran Gala.

World champions Thor Hushovd and Giorgia Bronzini at the Gran Gala. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alfredo Martini remembers Franco Ballerini.

Alfredo Martini remembers Franco Ballerini. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Bettini took over as Italian coach this year.

Paolo Bettini took over as Italian coach this year. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Giorgia Bronzini took a popular world championships win.

Giorgia Bronzini took a popular world championships win. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The late Franco Ballerini was in everyone's mind on the night.

The late Franco Ballerini was in everyone's mind on the night. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Italian champion Giovanni Visconti enjoyed a solid 2010.

Italian champion Giovanni Visconti enjoyed a solid 2010. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Thor Hushovd explains how it feels to be world champion.

Thor Hushovd explains how it feels to be world champion. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Thor Hushovd's world title was one of the highlights of the season.

Thor Hushovd's world title was one of the highlights of the season. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Francesco and Ignazio Moser take centre stage.

Francesco and Ignazio Moser take centre stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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A variety of prizes on offer at the Gran Gala.

A variety of prizes on offer at the Gran Gala. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Vincenzo Nibali had a wonderful 2010.

Vincenzo Nibali had a wonderful 2010. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Vincenzo Nibali's popular Vuelta a Espana win was remembered on the night.

Vincenzo Nibali's popular Vuelta a Espana win was remembered on the night. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Best in show: Ivan Basso, Thor Hushovd, Vincenzo Nibali and Giorgia Bronzini took home some of cycling's biggest prizes in 2010.

Best in show: Ivan Basso, Thor Hushovd, Vincenzo Nibali and Giorgia Bronzini took home some of cycling's biggest prizes in 2010. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Francesco Moser and his son Ignazio at the Gran Gala.

Francesco Moser and his son Ignazio at the Gran Gala. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The Gran Gala Ciclistico Internazionale awards night in Conegliano, Italy, brought down the curtain on the Italian cycling year on Sunday. Those within the sport celebrated the successes of the season and remembered the late Franco Ballerini.

Broadcast live on Italian television, the evening celebrated Ivan Basso's victory at the Giro d'Italia, Vincenzo Nibali's success at the Vuelta a España and Giorgia Bronzini's world title in the women's road race.

New men’s world champion Thor Hushovd was given a special prize for winning the rainbow jersey, as was Eddy Merckx, who this year celebrated his 65th birthday.

Hushovd rode 130km of Tour of Lombardy on Saturday, traveled to Belgium for the Flandrian of the year awards and then flew back to Italy to ride the Borgomanero two-up time trial on Sunday morning, before appearing at the Gran Gala.

He will also be in Paris for the 2011 Tour de France presentation on Tuesday but revealed to Cyclingnews that he will then head home to have surgery to remove plaque from the collarbone he fractured at the start of the season, before finally going on holiday with his family.

The Gran Gala brought numerous world champions together. Merckx, Francesco Moser, Paolo Bettini, Bronzini and Hushovd all raised a glass of the finest Italian prosecco to celebrate the season.

Merckx was awarded a special gold Lion of Flanders decorated to remember his incredible career. "Cycling is my life and it always will be," Merckx said, admitting he had been out for a ride on Saturday morning before celebrating with Philippe Gilbert after his win at the Tour of Lombardy.

Nibali and Basso shared the stage as Italy forget about its poor showing in the Spring Classics and celebrated it success in Grand Tour stage races.

The two Italians are yet to decide who will target victory at the 2011 Giro d'Italia and who will target the Tour de France, but Basso hinted that he still has unfinished business in France. Any final decision will be made after studying the route of both races after they are unveiled this week.

There was also an American winner at the Gran Gala, with bicycle manufacturer Specialized winning the Challenge Mondiale Costruttori -a season-long competition for bike manufacturers based on the success of the teams they sponsor. Specialized finished ahead of Pinarello, Scott, Cannondale and Ridley.

The evening also included a moment of sadness when former Italian national coach Ballerini was remembered by Bettini, who has inherited his position as national coach, and Alfredo Martini, who was Italian national coach before Ballerini. Both are from Tuscany like Ballerini and recalled their special friendships with the former professional, who died in a rally vehicle accident in February.