By Hedwig Kröner in Montélimar
Italian rider Alessandro Ballan was feeling rather low after losing out to Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel) on Friday's stage 12 to Carcassonne. Cyclingnews talked to the tall Lampre man on the very next day, at the start of another breakaway stage in Béziers, as he was having coffee in the village.
"I did a great stage, but then there was Freire and Popovych... I'm disappointed, as I got to the finish very tired, and then I could only get second," Ballan said.
The victory of the Ukrainian had prompted a lot of discussion in the media: rumour had it that there had been an agreement between two riders, the stage winner Popovych and sprinter Oscar Freire (Rabobank), and their two respective teams. Supposedly, Rabobank allowed the Discovery rider to win under the condition that the American team help them later in the Alps to get team leader Denis Menchov in a good position.
"I don't know," Ballan honestly replied when asked if he thought such a deal had been made. "Freire is a sprinter, he's a very fast finisher. I just didn't have the power anymore. If there was an agreement, I'm sorry about it. I'm just disappointed."
Nevertheless, the Italian hopes to do be out there again in the near future. "There are still five stages ahead, where I hope to do well. So maybe there is another chance for me, as I still feel good," he concluded.