Alessandro Ballan trains in Italy today after racing his last day in the rainbow jersey of World Champion on Tuesday at the Vuelta a España. He and Lampre teammate Damiano Cunego, winner of two stages, left the race after stage 16 to Puertollano.
Ballan said he that his emotions were high for the final day in the jersey he won in Varese, Italy, September 28. "It's the last time [I will race in this jersey]," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Of course, who's to say I can't win it again?"
He and Cunego planned their departure early to ready themselves to lead Italy's nine-man team in Mendrisio, Switzerland, next Sunday. Italy and Spain are favourites on the 262.2-kilometre course with 4655 metres of climbing.
"I trained well [at the Vuelta], although I missed out on a stage win," said Ballan.
A virus forced him to miss much of the early season this year. He won a stage and the overall at the Tour de Pologne earlier this month. It was his only race win in the World Champion rainbow jersey.
"I wanted to do more, but it doesn't always work out that way. In six years of being a pro [I have been lucky,] I have never even had the flu."
Ballan gave his last rainbow jersey to his masseur, Fabio Della Torre. His first one, which he took on the podium in Varese, is at home next to his 2007 Ronde van Vlaanderen trophy.
Ballan will leave Lampre at the end of this season. He signed last month with BMC Racing Team and will ride with the US-registered Pro Continental team for the next two seasons.
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