Ballan happy to be rid of the world champion's jersey

Alessandro Ballan is living proof of the “rainbow jersey curse”. The BMC Racing Team Italian is back in contention in races for practically the first time since winning the world championship in 2008, even though he is now up against the seemingly-indomitable Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek).

"I have two horrible years behind me,” he told the Gazet van Antwerpen, as reported on “I could not get used to the rainbow jersey. The stress got to me and literally made me sick, unfortunately.”

Ballan was with Lampre when he won the title. For his year in the rainbow jersey he won only one stage and the overall title in the Tour of Poland. He changed to BMC Racing Team in 2010, but had no wins all season.

"I underestimated the change to BMC,” he said. “Now I can only say I feel good here. This is the most important time of the year for me.”

While he has yet to stand atop the podium this season, his second place in the Montepaschi Strade Bianchi and fourth place in Milan-San Remo make him optimistic. “I am delighted to be a contender again.”

The 31-year-old is looking forward to the Tour of Flanders this weekend, but says there is only favourite to win. “Whoever is not afraid of Cancellara after the E3 Harelbeke is not very wise.

"I knew Fabian was good, but so strong? It was extraordinary and rarely seen. Last year Cancellara was very good and I think he is even stronger than then."

Ballan is not ready to concede the race, though, and suggested that the other teams might work against the Leopard Trek star. “Actually, the tactic for Sunday is simple: we should just try to follow Cancellara. That's not hard, at least on paper.”

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