Ballan faces last races prior to World title defence

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-NGC) is the World Champion.

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-NGC) is the World Champion. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Alessandro Ballan is on the hunt for a second win in his World Champion jersey Sunday in France's GP Plouay and in the three-week Vuelta a España.

"I am clearly better and I am able to say I am recovered," Italian Ballan (Lampre-NGC) told Cyclingnews.

Ballan missed much of the spring, including the one-day Classics, due to a virus. He returned to racing in the Memorial Pantani June 6, and raced the Tour de Suisse and Italian Championships prior to the Tour de France.

Racing at the Tour de France prepared Ballan for a stage and the overall win at the Tour de Pologne two weeks ago. It was the first time he won since he took the rainbow-coloured Worlds jersey last year in Varese, Italy.

Ballan looks forward to this Sunday's GP Plouay, where he finished second behind Pierrick Fédrigo last year. The race is 229.2 kilometres on a 19.1-kilometre circuit, the same that was used in the 2000 Worlds.

"It's a beautiful race and Lampre will have a good team with Santambrogio, Gasparotto, Mori. If not in France, it would be great to do well in a few stages at the Vuelta a España."

Ballan won the mountaintop finish at La Rabassa last year and took the race leader's golden jersey. He held onto the lead for one day.

"This year I expect to do well on some of the finishes that end with small climbs. The one to Liège could be a good one for me."

Ballan plans on leaving the Vuelta after two weeks to be ready to defend the Worlds jersey September 27 in Mendrisio, Switzerland. Italy won the last three editions, but will have a harder time this year because it lacks Paolo Bettini, Davide Rebellin and Danilo Di Luca.

Ballan expects director Franco Ballerini will distribute the leadership between him and cyclists who climb well.

"Last year Cunego went very well. We have Garzelli, Basso, Nibali, who went very strong at the Tour. So in the end, we have riders and we just need to decide how to race."

Mendrisio's course will be one of the hardest since 2003 in Hamilton, Canada. The circuit has two climbs, Acqua Fresca and Novazzano, in a short 13.8-kilometre circuit repeated 19 times.

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