Former world champion Alessandro Ballan (BMC) is still looking for his first win of the season but is hoping to find it in this week’s Tour of Poland and so help secure a place in the Italian team for the world championships in Melbourne on October 3.
The first races after the Tour de France traditionally marks the start of the long selection process for the Italian national team and new coach Paolo Bettini has already begun talking to riders after making a short trip to see the course in mid-July. He believes the course is not for sprinters but more suited for classics rider, like Ballan.
“I spoke to Bettini for half an hour the other day. He doesn’t think it’s an easy course and Ballerini had told me the same thing. He told me it’ll be as tough as the Tour of Flanders, with a short climb each lap. I’ve got to like that!” Ballan told Gazzetta dello Sport.
Ballan finished third in the Italian national championships and was second behind Thomas Voeckler on stage 15 of the Tour de France but is still looking for his first win in BMC colours. He was forced to miss the spring classics and the Giro d’Italia after being caught up in the Mantova doping investigation. He was stopped from racing by BMC but was later brought back into the team and finished the Tour de France.
Last year Ballan won his first race wearing the rainbow jersey in Poland and also snatched victory in the overall classification. He is convinced he can win again this year.
“I think I had a good Tour and I’ve come out of it well. I suffered in the first week because I hadn’t raced a lot in the first part of the season. I can understand the decision of the team but I’m glad to be back,” he said.
“I hope to do even better than last year. I’m joking, because that will be difficult, but as a team we want to score valuable points for the world ranking.”
Ballan also has his eye on the special Franco Ballerini memorial stage on Wednesday from Sosnowiec to Katowice, when Bettini will be in Poland. Friday’s stage starts from the Birkenau/Auschwitz concentration camp and will also be a moment of remembrance. After Poland, Ballan hopes to secure selection for the world championships with results in a series of one-day races. He is not expecting to be part of the BMC team for the Vuelta but will try to find his best form by mixing training and racing.
“I’m also riding Hamburg, the Tre Valli Varesine, the GP Plouay and a few others. Not riding the Vuelta means I’ve got to come up with something to get fit. I might even organise a kind of training stage race between races. We’re looking at with the team staff.”
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.