By Gregor Brown
Second in stage 14 of the Tour de France, third in Paris-Roubaix, sixth in the ProTour classification and one win, the Trofeo Laigueglia; these are the 2006 palmarès of Alessandro Ballan. The Italian is hoping to trade in his 2006 placings for a big win in 2007.
The tall rider won early in 2006, on Valentine's Day in Liguria in the Trofeo Laigueglia. Since then he was always near the top, including the front end of the World championships in Salzburg when he was leading he peloton on the last lap before his caption, Paolo Bettini, went on to win the race. But Ballan's desires remain in the spring.
"The typical 'man of the north' is a champion. I have yet to win a classic," Ballan explained in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport. The 27 year-old is hoping to shine in 2007, pointing towards the historic spring classics. "The stadium of Roubaix or amongst the last thee bergs of Flanders," continued Ballan, describing his 2007 appointments.
The month of November has been the off-season for Ballan; combining vacation with other fun activities. "25 days away from the bicycle. A few little games of football and beach volleyball, really doing nothing," Ballan continued. "Now I will start back at the gym and some time in the mountains, and then on November 25 I will return to the road. Maybe if someone invites me to do some 'cross I will go. It is fun for me."
Ballan will be busy attending the inauguration of his fan club this Saturday near in hometown of Castelfranco Veneto. "They asked me for permission to create the club and I said 'yes,' and there are now 130 members," explained Ballan. "I gave them my jersey from the Salzburg worlds, the Lampre-Fondital jersey I wore in Paris-Roubaix, the Trophy from Tirreno-Adriatico and the trophy for my win in Laigueglia."