Ballan tips Gilbert for Worlds glory

Philippe Gilbert confirmed his return to form with his second stage victory of the Vuelta a España in Segovia on Friday and his BMC teammate Alessandro Ballan has tipped him to continue his winning streak at the world championships in Valkenburg later this month.

Ballan was prominent on the front of the peloton in the closing kilometres of stage 19, shutting down a late move that featured Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) and then combining with Klas Lodewyck to set up Gilbert for the uphill sprint in Segovia.

“It was a perfectly finale for Philippe and we worked hard to get this result for him,” Ballan told Biciciclismo. “Klas and I worked a lot when Flecha went away with three other riders.”

In the final 200 metres, Gilbert conjured up a sprint not dissimilar to the one he unleashed to win in Toledo at the same juncture of the 2010 Vuelta, something which Ballan believes augurs well for the forthcoming world championships.

Gilbert was aggressive on the final lap in Geelong in 2010, but found that the circuit was perhaps not demanding enough for his characteristics. Ballan is confident that he will find more suitable terrain in Valkenburg, as the Cauberg – site of the finale of Amstel Gold Race – comes just 1.5km from the finish.

“We’re delighted with his win. When Philippe has those legs he is unbeatable – he is going to be the world champion this year,” Ballan said.

Ballan, who won the rainbow jersey in Varese in 2008, will not take part in this year’s world championships as the Italian federation recently announced that riders named in ongoing doping investigations will not be considered for selection.

Ballan was implicated in the Mantova-based doping inquiry into his former Lampre team in April 2010, and the preliminary hearings are not due to take place until December.

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