Ex-world champion rushed to hospital due to complications related to training crash in December as he continues slow recovery

Alessandro Ballan's BMC Racing team says that the he is still on target to return to racing in four months despite further complications related to the former world champion's recovery from his crash in Spain during a training ride in December. Italian website Tuttobiciweb had suggested that he might risk missing the entire 2013 season.

The high-speed crash on a descent of the Coll de Rates resulted in Ballan having his spleen removed and spending time in intensive care as he underwent surgery on a broken leg. He also suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung.

The latest surgical intervention this week has resulted in the 33-year-old also having his appendix removed. Ballan, who comes from Italy’s Veneto region and has been recovering at home, underwent the emergency operation due after being readmitted to hospital with an abdominal tissue infection.

"It’s much better now,” he told Tuttobiciweb. “One night I had bad stomach pains due to abdominal adhesions, for which the doctors had to open me up again to clean up the infected area and while they were there they also removed my appendix. In short, it was a bit of a busy night, but I’m okay now.”

Team doctor Max Testa said in a statement: "The surgery to remove the adhesions and his appendix was very successful and he is doing well.

"I do not think this will impact the original timetable we had for him to return to racing in four months. But he will stay off the stationary bike for a couple weeks."

Ballan added: "From now on, I want to look forward to the future and riding with my teammates again. No more hospitals anymore."

The BMC Racing rider had originally been aiming to return to racing in the Vuelta which starts in late August, and Tuttobiciweb had suggested his participation would be in doubt, although Dr Testa's statement seems to confirm that is still the target.

Ballan won the rainbow jersey at Varese in Italy in 2008 and the previous season won the Tour of Flanders, a race in which he finished third last year behind Tom Boonen and Filippo Pozzato.

A consistently strong rider in the cobbled classics, a week later he finished third in Paris-Roubaix, equalling his best performance in that race, previously achieved in 2006 and 2008.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.