World champ Ballan back for Tour de France

Italian aiming for stage wins

World champion Alessandro Ballan returned to racing Saturday in Cesenatico, Italy, after a virus kept him away for nearly three months. The Italian is building towards success in the Tour de France, July 4 to 26.

"In the first week, no," he told Cyclingnews of his chances for a Tour de France stage win. "Starting with the second week I will have 20 days of racing in my legs and I hope to be competitive like in the last years."

Doctors diagnosed team Lampre's Ballan with cytomegalovirus in March. Tiredness and fever are symptoms of the herpes virus. Tirreno-Adriatico's stage four, March 14, was his last race prior to Saturday's Memorial Pantani.

"The race was a little hard because I lack the rhythm, and I am behind with respect to those riders who raced the Giro d'Italia. I have to get better and return to my best level."

Ballan's next race will be the Tour de Suisse, June 13 to 21. The nine-day race has two time trials and three mountaintop finishes.

"It is a little bit much, but I need it if I am going to go to the Tour de France. I am not going there with goals, I am going to finish it and for training."

After Ballan finishes Suisse, he will race the Italian championships and then leave for the start of the Tour de France in Monaco.

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