The late two-time Paris-Roubaix champion Franco Ballerini, who died in an auto accident in February, will be honored by race organizers on Sunday.
ASO (Amaury Sports Organisation) will award the Franco Ballerini Pavé cobblestone to the best-placed Italian rider in the 259km Hell of the North.
Ballerini is one of only eight Italians to have won the race, also known as the “Queen of the Classics,” having triumphed in 1995 and 1998 after being inspired to take part by three-time winner and compatriot Francesco Moser.
Ballerini, 45, died February 7 when he was involved in a crash during a rally car race in Tuscany.
Ballerini retired on the day of his 13th and final participation in Paris-Roubaix in 2001 and then became the director of the Italian national team.
He was in charge when Paolo Bettini (2006, 2007) and Alessandro Ballan (2008) were crowned world champions.
The last Italian to win Paris-Roubaix was Andrea Tafi in 1999. Saxo Bank’s Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, the winner in 2006, lines up as a big favorite Sunday although Belgian rival Tom Boonen is a three-time winner, including the past two years.
Italian victories at Paris-Roubaix
1937. Jules Rossi (I), Alcyon
1949. Serse Coppi (I), Bianchi-Ursus*
1950. Fausto Coppi (I), Bianchi-Ursus
1951. Antonio Bevilacqua (I), Benotto-Ursus
1966. Felice Gimondi (I), Salvarani
1978. Francesco Moser (I), Sanson
1979. Francesco Moser (I), Sanson
1980. Francesco Moser (I), Sanson
1995. Franco Ballerini (I), Mapei-GB
1998. Franco Ballerini (I), Mapei-Bricobi
1999. Andrea Tafi (I), Mapei-Quick Step
* Serse Coppi’s victory in 1949 was shared with André Mahé (F), Stella Dunlop