For cycling enthusiasts, he was the champion who continued to race, defying the limits of time and age. The seasons went by, they were already 50 years old and Davide Rebellin was always at the start. He had turned professional three decades ago and it had been more than a quarter of a century since he donned his first pink jersey in 1996, defending for six days.
The beginnings were very distant, but Rebellin had left racing a few weeks ago, last October 16, at 51 years and two months old, with 30th place at the Veneto Classic, along the roads of his region. He was born in San Bonifacio in the province of Verona, just 12 kilometers from the Montebello Vicentino junction where today he lost his life on a bicycle hit by a truck that escaped without stopping. A rider who had pushed the boundaries of staying in professionalism with infinite perseverance is leaving, at the cost of pursuing contracts with small foreign teams in the last phase. For this reason it was in the thoughts of every cycling amateur, beyond his palmares full of classics, those in which he could express the burning inspiration of a finisseur.
It has linked its name above all to the Freccia Vallone and its dizzying finale, that Wall of Huy in the middle of the Ardennes woods, where the sprint consumes the most explosive energies and you arrive exhausted due to the slopes of the last kilometre, between two wings of delirious fans. Rebellin tamed it as a winner three times. Like him only Kint, Merckx, Argentin and Alaphilippe. Only Valverde is better with five editions on the bulletin board. In 2004 he embellished his success at the Freccia Vallone with a magical week, completed by triumphs at the Amstel Gold Race and at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, his masterpiece.
In all he raised his arms at the finish line 70 times. His biggest regret is linked to his failure to affirm himself in a World Cup, despite two editions assigned to Verona for him (the best performance was 4th place in Varese in 2008). The other great displeasure was caused by the revocation of the silver medal from the Beijing Olympics, removed due to the subsequent two-year ban for doping. Rebellin reported anomalies in the procedure and in 2015 he was acquitted by the Padua judiciary, but he never got his medal back. In the same year he obtained his last prestigious victory: the Agostoni Cup in the Lombard triptych, on the hills of Brianza. It is impressive to re-read the chronicles of that race now. Rebellin attacked on Lissolo, the hardest climb of the course, together with Vincenzo Nibali and Michele Scarponi, another champion who passed away due to an accident on the road in training at just 37 years old. Today it was Rebellin’s turn in this endless massacre that spares no one, a consequence of the carelessness of those who consider cyclists only obstacles that do not deserve respect. And he cut short the life of the champion who never wanted to stop racing.