Ballan finding Classics painful from afar

By Gregor Brown World Champion Alessandro Ballan is finding this year's Classics tougher than ever,...

By Gregor Brown

World Champion Alessandro Ballan is finding this year's Classics tougher than ever, but not because he is suffering with foul weather and bone-jarring cobblestones. Instead, the Italian has been forced to watch the races on television after being felled by a virus last month which has put him out of competition since mid-March.

Being absent from the famed Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix have been especially hard for the rider who has stood on the podium at both races.

"Clearly it was hard to watch; it has been six years since I have not raced Flanders," he told Cyclingnews. "When I saw the moves of [Tom] Boonen and [Filippo] Pozzato it left a lump in my throat.

"I think it will be the same for Roubaix, it was also that way for Milano-Sanremo. I saw the guys going over the Poggio and I was sitting on the couch, not doing anything."

Doctors diagnosed Ballan with cytomegalovirus – a virus that causes fatigue and fever. His last race was Tirreno-Adriatico stage four on March 14. Ballan, in the rainbow colours, wanted to repeat his 2007 Ronde van Vlaanderen win and to have a chance to better his third place from the 2008 Paris-Roubaix.

"Physically, I am doing better, but until my blood levels are back to normal I cannot force it on the bike. I should have another check up on Tuesday and then I will know more."

After more than a month off from training, Ballan will need some time to get back into form. He is looking ahead to next month for a return to competition. "I hope that I can get back to racing with Volta a Catalunya [May 18 to 24]. Then it would be the Tour de Suisse [June 13 to 21] and the Italian Championships [June 27] to build up for the Tour de France."

Ballan will be in France for the Paris-Roubaix, arriving Friday evening to join the team in the race's presentation on Saturday. He will then be a guest commentator for Italy's Rai television during the race on Sunday.

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