Ballan's form improves ahead of Tour

World Champion fights back from virus

Alessandro Ballan has recovered from the virus that ruined his spring campaign and is finding the form that won him the road World Championships last year. The Italian finished 12th, two minutes and 24 seconds behind winner Fabian Cancellara in the Tour de Suisse time trial yesterday in Bern.

"It is the first time he did such distances back to back, he is at a good point now, I would say 60 to 70 percent of his best form," Lampre's director sportif, Brent Copeland, told Cyclingnews.

Ballan failed to match the time of Cancellara, who is a two-time time trial world champion, but the stage showed that he will be able to battle for a Tour de France stage win. It is a big goal for team Lampre's Ballan since he had to stop racing and training in March.

"[Ballan will] be in better shape for a stage win in the second and third week." - Copeland on Ballan's Tour chances

Doctors diagnosed Ballan with cytomegalovirus, which brings on tiredness and fever. Tirreno-Adriatico stage four, March 14, was his last race and he had to skip the Spring Classics.

He returned to racing in the Memorial Pantani June 6 and the nine-day Tour de Suisse helped him continue to find his racing rhythm. The Italian Championships this Sunday in Imola will be the last race for him prior to the Tour de France, July 4 to 26.

"He will go to the Tour with decent shape," said Copeland. "He will ride through the first week and be in better shape for a stage win in the second and third week."

Ballan finished third in the Foix stage last year and second in the 2006 stage to Carcassonne.

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