Chicchi remembers Ballerini with Qatar win
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Chicchi remembers Ballerini with Qatar win

by Samuel Morrison at 3:10 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour of Qatar
 

Franco Ballerini stepped onto the podium yesterday in Al Khor Corniche, Qatar, thanks to stage winner Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas-Doimo).

"I don't know if Franco rode with me," said Chicchi to La Gazzetta dello Sport, "but I felt a special motivation these last days. I could not make it to his funeral, but to race and win is a great way to remember him."

Ballerini, 45, died in Larciano, Italy, due to injuries suffered in a rally car race. The car driven by Italian Alessandro Ciardi, co-piloted by Ballerini, strayed off course and crashed into a wall. Funeral services were held yesterday in his hometown, Casalguidi.

"I met Ballerini at a tragic moment," continued Chicchi. "I was a beginner [racer], and a team-mate and friend, Alessandro, died in a training accident. Franco came to the funeral. He confirmed his champion status to me, coming to the funeral even if he did not know this boy. It was a magnificent gesture; it really left an impact on me."

Chicchi, from the same Tuscan region, began to know Ballerini better in Zolder, Belgium, when he won the Under 23 World Championships. Ballerini did not direct the Under 23 team, but he complemented the winner and before guiding Mario Cipollini to the elite title one day later.

Ballerini went on to direct Italy to four more wins, including an Olympic gold.

"I get goose bumps thinking about him," said Chicchi. "You know what Franco would always say to me? That I have an explosiveness, an out of the ordinary potential. I remember that expression for some reason, 'out of the ordinary.'"

Chicchi, 29 years old, from Camaiore, has used his potential well over the last nine seasons as a professional. In 2008, he won stages in Tirreno-Adriatico, Coppi & Bartali, Volta a Catalunya, Tour de Slovénie and Tour of Missouri. Yesterday's win in Qatar was already his second of the season, which began with a bang last month when he won the opening stage of the Tour de San Luis in Argentina.

He will have two more chances to win in Qatar. The race continues with a 142-kilometre stage to Madinat Al Shamal today and Friday it travels 123.5 kilometres to Doha.

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