Former world champion Alessandro Ballan will try to make up for a disappointing 2009 by targeting all the early spring classics
The lanky Italian rider has quit Lampre for the new Swiss BMC team and will form part of the strongest classics teams in the peloton along with Geroge Hincapie, Markus Berghardt, Karsten Kroon and fellow Italian Mauro Santambrogio. World champion Cadel Evans will be team leader in the major stage races.
Ballan won the world title in Varese in 2008 but was forced to miss all the spring classics after catching the citalomegavirus. He won the Tour of Flanders in 2007.
With doping scandals taking out Davide Rebellin and Danilo Di Luca, Italy failed to win a major classic in 2009. Ballan jokingly put it down to his problems when asked to why Italy had disappointed.
“Why? It’s simple. I was ill,” he joked in an interview published in Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Joking apart, I’m working on that. I want to start the season with good form. Milan-San Remo is a goal. Do you remember the attack on the Poggio with Pozzato in 2006? That race means a lot to me. Tantissimo.”
Ballan revealed he will debut in BMC colours at the Tour of Qatar.
“Yes, Qatar from the 7-12 of February, then (the Tour of Oman) and a lot of races in Italy: Laigueglia, Montepaschi-Strade Bianche (Eroica), Tirreno-Adriatico and San Remo. Then Flanders, Roubaix and the Giro d’Italia.”
With so many strong classics rider at BMC, Ballan predicted they would dominate the final of the big spering races. Stronger than Katyusha and his close friend and classic rival Filippo Pozzato.
“Ivanov is strong and Pozzato is a leader but in the finale, when there are perhaps 15 riders left up front, I think there’ll be two or three of them, while there could be four of us.”
Ballan got to meet his new team mates during a get together in Zurich at the end of the season. US riders gathered in Salt Lake City this week, with a full training camp planned for the USA in January.
He returned from a holiday on the Red Sea on Sunday and began training for 2010 with gym work and English lessons so that he can communicate with his new team mates.
“I’d never studied it so I’m starting from zero,” he said.
A lot like his new team as they prepare for their ProTour debut in 2010.