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The Italian world champion raised her arm to the heavens and pointed to the sky in what is one of the most striking victory salutes in contemporary cycling.
Yet the raw emotion is much more than just celebrating a victory for the 24-year-old at Trek-Segafredo. The salute is also dedicated to a cousin who was killed in a car crash last fall.
“The finger to the sky is my dedication to someone that is not anymore with me, unfortunately,” Balsamo said. “Someone who was very close to me, but someone who I’m sure follows and protects me from the sky.”
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The victory salute is dedicated to the road world champion’s cousin, Enrico Olivero, 22, who died tragically in October just weeks after she won the world title in Leuven, Belgium.
Last fall, she wrote a message on social media about her cousin and his friend, Paolo Salvatico, 23, who was also killed when the car they were traveling in veered off the road, killing two of the five passengers.
“You will be forever in my heart,” she wrote. “Continue to have fun up there, you and Paolo, and protect us.”
According to Italian media, Balsamo was particularly close to her cousin, and the families would often spend time together.
In a social media post following her emotional victory in Italy this weekend, she wrote, “This win is for you, my angel.”
Fast start to her world champion season
The emotions come following a successful start to her 2022 racing season in a high-profile move to Trek-Segafredo.
In March, Balsamo won her season debut race in the rainbow jersey in the opening stage at the Setmana Valenciana and celebrated with a similar victory salute. She also dedicated the victory, writing on Instagram, “Chicco and Pepino enjoy from … [with emojis representing the heavens].”
After finishing second at Miron Ronde van Drenthe earlier this month, Balsamo kicked to victory in dramatic fashion Sunday at Trofeo Alfredo Binda.
Balsamo and her Trek-Segafredo teammates pedal into a busy spring calendar, with the Oxyclean Classic Brugge-De Panne on Wednesday, Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix all lined up.
She promises to continue her victory dedication every time she crosses the line first.