Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing Team) has confirmed that he will ride the Italian national championships this weekend. Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the former rainbow jersey wearer said that although the course at Conegliano was as difficult as a World Championship, he needed more racing kilometres in his legs ahead of the Tour de France.
“I didn’t want to ride it," Ballan said. "I thought that a spell of training at altitude would have been more useful as preparation for the Tour, but I also need to find my rhythm.”
As well as the 15 percent climb of the Ca’ del Poggio, Ballan noted a less obvious difficulty in Saturday’s course, namely a tricky, technical descent, that he says will leave no opportunity “to breathe or to recuperate”.
Another obstacle facing Ballan is his relative lack of teammates. With just Mauro Santambrogio to aid him, he will be outnumbered by the larger rosters of Liquigas and Lampre in particular, but he was quick to downplay the apparent disadvantage. “For Liquigas, [the leaders are] Basso and Nibali, and for Lampre, Cunego, Gavazzi and Pietropolli. I will race and mark them.”
Ballan will be hoping that this race and the upcoming Tour de France can kick start his truncated season. His classics campaign was cut short when BMC withdrew him from racing due to concerns raised in the Mantova doping investigation, which largely concerned Ballan’s former Lampre-Farnese Vini team. He returned to racing at the GP Kanton Aargau-Gippingen in June, and followed that up with a ride in the Tour de Suisse.
Although short on preparation, his aspirations of taking his national title are apparent, saying: “I didn’t see myself winning the rainbow jersey [in 2008], but I held it for a year”.
Although never a national champion at any level, Ballan also revealed that he has in fact worn the tricolour jersey before, albeit in unusual circumstances last winter. “It was at a charity cyclo-cross in Belgium. It was cold and I was dressed lightly, so Pozzatto gave me the loan of his black skinsuit with the tricolour band to put under my team jersey”.
This weekend, Ballan will doubtless be harbouring ambitions to display that jersey a little more publicly.