Alessandro Ballan has had one of the most successful seasons of any Italian. When pundits look back of the season it is the names of Paolo Bettini or Damiano Cunego that spring to mind, often they are overlooking the quiet but strong Veneto force that was crowned king of Flanders on Easter. Gregor Brown of Cyclingnews spoke with the Lampre-Fondital rider at the close of the 2007 season.
Thinking back to the sunny day in Harelbeke, Belgium, the season of 28 year-old Ballan was starting to take shape. The rider from Castelfranco Veneto was back on form in the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen after a crash in the beginning of March. He came to the finish line 10th behind winner Tom Boonen but was ready to cash-in on the previous season's learning experience and a winter of training.
April rolled around as Ballan's form began to rise. He won the overall of the Three Days of De Panne in Western Flanders, a race where he had secured his first professional win via a stage one in 2005, and was pinned as one of the hot foreign favourites for the upcoming Ronde van Vlaanderen on Easter Sunday, April 8. He did not let down as the finish line approached he blasted his main opponent, Belgian Leif Hoste to be crowned king of Flanders.
"Now, I feel I am at my top," he said after his achievement in Meerbeke. "Two years ago, when I finished sixth, I started thinking a lot about this race, and the Classics in general. I knew I could compete and one day win this race. It is a wonderful race: I grew up watching these races on TV in Italy."
To read the full interview with Alessandro Ballan, click here.