Two-time winner of Paris-Roubaix, Franco Ballerini, has died as a result of injuries sustained in a rally car event. He was 45.
A professional from 1986 to 2001, Ballerini won Paris-Roubaix in 1995 and 1998. The Hell of the North was also his last race as a professional in 2001.
Other significant victories include Paris-Brussels and the Omloop Het Volk. In 1993 he was second to Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle on the line at the Roubaix velodrome.
Ballerini was serving as the co-driver (navigator) for driver Alessandro Ciardi at an event in the municipality of Larciano. The vehicle left the road and crashed. Ballerini and Ciardi were rushed to the nearest hospital, in Pistoia, but despite doctors’ efforts, Ballerini died soon after.
After retirement, Ballerini became the coach of the Italian national team, guiding the Squadra Azzurra to victory at the world championship in his first year, 2002. He was able to rally the team to support Mario Cipollini, giving the team its first victory since 1992. He was universally praised for managing to unite a team whose infighting had resulted in years of silvers and bronzes.
Following Cipollini’s win, the team would go on to support Paolo Bettini to win gold at the 2004 Olympics plus two rainbow jerseys—in 2006 and 2007. The next year Alessandro Ballan made it three years in a row for Italy.
Ballerini leaves a wife and two children.
Images: John Pierce, Photosport International