Alessandro Ballan is determined to put his disappointing debut season with BMC behind him and return to the levels that saw him win the world championships road race in Varese in 2008. He will skip the Tours of Qatar and Oman as he alters his preparation for the classics.
“I want to return to being the rider of 2007 and 2008,” Ballan told Gazzetta dello Sport. “You know that my objectives are Flanders, which is a beautiful race, and Paris-Roubaix, which is history.”
Ballan won the Tour of Flanders in 2007 and finished third in the 2008 Paris-Roubaix behind Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara. However, he endured an underwhelming season in the rainbow jersey in 2009 and he faced further problems during his first year at BMC.
The Italian was withheld from competition for most of April and May by his team, when it emerged that he was linked in the Mantua-based investigation into alleged doping at his former Lampre team. After an internal investigation, BMC cleared Ballan to return to racing at the end of May but he struggled for form thereafter and failed to make the Italian squad for the world championships in Geelong.
Looking ahead to the 2011 season, Ballan has altered his calendar and will forgo the February races in the Middle East in order to have a home-based build-up to the classics.
“I’ve asked the team to change my programme,” he said. “Qatar and Oman don’t suit me as there aren’t any climbs, a fundamental part of my preparation. I’ll start with the Tour Down Under and then I’ll proceed with the Italian calendar as far as Milan-San Remo.”
After San Remo, Ballan will head north, where the Three Days of De Panne will be his final warm-up for the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Before that, he travels to Australia on Thursday to train ahead of the Tour Down Under.
“Without doubt, 2011 is a season of redemption,” Ballan said. “And with riders like Bennati and Cunego, I’m in good company.”