The Italian National RR Champion Filippo Pozzato
paid homage to the memory of the Squadra Azzurra team coach by clinching a great victory in the first edition of the event dedicated to Franco Ballerini, who was victim of a fatal car accident just a few months ago, and running over about 75 kilometers with the finishing line located at Ballero
's hometown Casalguidi in Tuscany.
The popular 'Pippo' outsprinted his fellow escapee Francesco Ginanni to claim victory. Both Italians were part of a larger breakaway group of a dozen guys, but they powered away from the others with some 10 kilometers to go. Alessandro Petacchi led the bunch home ahead of his chief rival Mark Cavendish, albeit his successful sprint won him just a place on the lowest step of the podium.
Regardless of the hot weather, the race was hectic since the start, with a first group of ten attackers not getting too far, and the next move from Leonardo Giordani (Ceramica Flaminia) unable to bear fruit either. More attempts and counter-attempts came, until a helluva group containing the likes of Filippo Pozzato, Mark Cavendish (the only non-Italian there), Vincenzo Nibali, Alessandro Petacchi, Francesco Ginanni, Francesco Failli, Enrico Gasparotto, Santo Anzą, Manuel Belletti, Roberto Ferrari, Raffaele Ferrara and Matteo Tosatto managed to break clear about 25 km. from the finish.
Cooperation reigned supreme on the front, such that their advantage went over the minute at the 15-to-go check, until Pozzato and Ginanni made the winning move. They rode hard and fast in the last six miles, and victory became a matter of two guys only. And a private thing of Pippo Pozzato as he had the quickest legs in the crucial battle to the line.
"I was hungry for victory in this contest that paid homage to Franco's memory. This one was my last race with the tricolore jersey, and I'm not going to take part in the next Italian Champs either, so I'm very happy that I could wrap up my period as Italian national Champion in such a way. At the last Paris-Roubaix, I took the trophy named after Ballerini and awarded to the best-placed Italian rider, and now I just won "his" race. I used to have frank dialogues with him, sometimes argue with him, but that's the way true friendships are built, you know".
1st Ballerini Day (Casalguidi, 75.2 km)
Top 10 Results
1. Filippo Pozzato (Ita - Katusha) - 01h39'50
2. Francesco Ginanni (Ita - Androni-Diquigiovanni) - s.t.
3. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita - Lampre Farnese Vini) - at 20"
4. Mark Cavendish (GBR - Team Columbia HTC) - at 20"
5. Matteo Tosatto (Ita - Quick Step) - at 20"
6. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita - Astana) - at 20"
7. Manuel Belletti (Ita - Colnago-CSF Inox) - at 20"
8. Raffaele Ferrara (Ita - Carmiooro-NGC) - at 20"
9. Roberto Ferrari (Ita - De Rosa-Stac Plastic) - at 20"
10. Francesco Failli (Ita - Acqua & Sapone) - at 20"
* Click here for complete race results (pdf file).