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World Champion Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-NGC)
Alessandro Ballan finally gets a win as World Champion by winning stage in Tour de Pologne
It takes rain to make a rainbow, and it took a torrential downpour to lift the curse of the rainbow bands from the shoulders of World Champion Alessandro Ballan.
The Tour of Poland had been enjoying unusually nice weather and a series of bunch sprints in the first four stages this week. But that all changed Thursday as race punished the riders with eight relatively short but sharp climbs in the second half of the 163km fifth stage, and rain pounded down as they neared the finish.
As the riders headed to the penultimate summit with 10km to go, Ballan rocketed out of the peloton and powered over the top. Only a few attentive riders were quick enough to catch the flying Italian, but none were a match the power of the winner of the 2007 Tour of Flanders in a sprint.
For Ballan, the win helped rescue a season that has been hampered by illness. He began to show some form in the Tour de France, where he went on the attack on stage 19 only to be hunted down by the Columbia-HTC team who set up the win for its sprinter Mark Cavendish.
"I knew my form was good after the Tour de France and I said my aim was to win in Poland," said Ballan, thanking his teammates who set up his winning move with a succession of attacks.
The victory will also help in Ballan's job search after he announced his departure from the Lampre team, which was only offering him a one-year contract.