Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital) and Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) will face off Tuesday, February 20 in the 44th Trofeo Laigueglia, starting from Golfo and ending after 183 kilometres. Ballan is the Corsa Ligure's returning champion but Pippo is a two-time winner, and together the two, who train together on their home roads of Veneto, have won three of the last four editions.
Both riders are competing with five races already in their legs for 2007, a winter of hard training behind them and a common goal in mind, to win the Milano-Sanremo. "The first 1,000 kilometres this winter were done on a fixed gear bike, I did large amounts of work on force with mountain intervals, mostly under good weather, and time in the gym," commented Ballan to La Gazzetta dello Sport. His compatriot was just as happy with the last few months, "I have been very good. [Regarding] the mountain tests on Monte Grappa, they say that I was better than one year ago; also I did work at the gym. Then there was the start in Mallorca; I had an intestinal virus, no fever but I hardly had any force, and luckily I did not lose much [in form]."
Ballan had a chance to preview the parcours of Sanremo on Sunday, in the final day of the Tour Méditerranéen, and he returned on Monday to do more testing. "We did the Cipressa and Poggio on Sunday and today [Monday - ed.] we did and redid it again," explained Ballan of his training with Lampre-Fondital teammates. "On the Poggio there is a false-flat ... where you can attack. But one year ago I found Pozzato there on my wheel."
The 2006 Sanremo winner, Pippo, confirmed his desire to repeat, even if he has not been able to test the parcours so far this year. "I wanted to ride the Poggio Sunday but I turned around because of rain. I wanted to also try today [Monday - ed.] but we encountered lots of other cyclists, and so we decided to train on another climb."
For the Trofeo Laigueglia the two have their marked-men. Ballan, who will be racing with number 1 on his back, noted, "It would be beautiful to repeat last year's victory. I will be watching the young [Mikhail] Ignatiev and the other Russians of Tinkoff."
Pippo, who will wear the number 18, concluded, "Ballan told me that [Lampre's Daniele] Bennati is going well, also on the climbs, and to give attention to [Unibet.com' Matteo] Carrara."