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Don’t tell Alessandro Ballan that there’s some sort of curse that goes with the world champion’s rainbow jersey.
Most world champions are highly marked in races, making it even harder to win, but at least they’re racing.
Ballan’s world champion season has been short-circuited by illness, but the gangly Lampre-NGC rider is hoping to get things back on track for the Tour de France.
“I am about 60-70 percent my condition, nothing more, I must rebuild,” Ballan told L’Equipe.
Ballan has been struggling with a type of glandular fever called cytomegalovirus all season and things got so bad he was forced to stop racing at Tirreno-Adriatico to give his body a complete resting period to recovery.
Ballan said he would get tired just walking up stairs, so riding the grueling northern classics was out of the question.
He quietly returned to competition last week at the Tour de Suisse, finishing an unspectacular 94th overall, and is penciled to be part of Lampre-NGC’s Tour selection, though he isn’t expecting great things.
Ballan will be trying to become the first reigning world champion since Oscar Freire in 2001 to win a stage at the Tour, though his major goals come later this season.
“Mazio Bruseghin will be our leader for the GC and I hope to be at his service,” Ballan said. “I hope that I can get into a breakaway and try to win a stage. I will race the Vuelta as well to prepare for the world championships. I dream of winning the world’s again.”