Alessandro Ballan always has a strange facial expression. It probably got even stranger after his stop-start schedule last year. His BMC team iced him for a few months when his name came up on a doping investigation in Italy.
We get the feeling that whenever Italian police get bored, they open an investigation, throws a few rumors at the cycling press and score a few extra free drinks at the local bar.
In any case, most critics agree that BMC jumped the gun on suspending him but given the team was fairly new and had big ambitions, playing it safe was smart.
What we’re excited about is seeing Ballan back in action at the front of a bike race. That race being stage one of the Giro di Sardegna, from Olbia to Porto Cervo. While it was young talent Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) who sprinted to victory, Ballan managed a strong second along with teammate Daniel Oss in third.
Stage one featured a long breakaway with the usual long odds. Arkimedes Arguelyes (Katusha) and Will Routley (Team Spidertech p/b c10) built up a fat lead of 7:40. Then Arguelyes jumped clear on the climb of the San Pantaleo. Lampre-ISD and Ballan’s BMC squad chased hard, dragging the Katusha rider back with 9k to go.
Then scofflaw Danilo di Luca, the Man Who Kinda Rides For Free, took a shot at victory. He failed as did Stefano Pirazzi (CSF-Colnago). The day belonged to Sagan who easily won the sprint and Ballan who showed everyone he is on form.
He’d like to forget the 2010 season and he’s off to a good start. He may even starting smiling again.