Davide Rebellin surprised many when he chose to move to ride for the Gerolsteiner team in 2002. It seemed an odd move for the world's ranked number three to move to such a comparatively inexperienced team in a nation which in cycling terms had always been dominated by the all powerful Telekom team. Gerolsteiner, which attained GS-I status due to the arrival of Rebellin, also ensured that the Italian should not be without friends and he brought with him several riders including his friend Gianni Faresin.
A quiet man, Rebellin had an outstanding start as a junior and amateur rider and was nicknamed "Golden Boy," because he won almost everything there was to win. In 1991 he finished second in the World Amateur Road Race and Italy began to speculate it had found the natural successor to Bugno.
In 1992, after participating in the Summer Olympic Games as captain of the Italian cycling team, he turned pro. However, he did not have the dream start as a pro that the public had been anticipating, and it proved difficult for him to live up to expectations. In 1993 he won his first race, the Hoffbräu Cup in Stuttgart, but riding for the MG team between 1992 for four seasons until 1995 with Directeur Sportif Giancarlo Ferretti saw only two victories.
Giancarlo Ferretti, identified the problem: "Davide is honest and not an egoist at all -- but a great champion has to be an egoist. Davide can do much better..."
Rebellin with Polti
In 1996 he joined the Polti team and, perhaps more importantly, reunited with his trusted coach from amateur days, Giosue Zenoni. The move provided the impetus Rebellin needed, he was able to break through. On May 25, 1996 Rebellin won the Mount Sirrino Stage of the Giro, gained the maillot rose and held onto it for 5 days. He finished the Giro in an outstanding 6th place and still only 25, the future suddenly seemed to be much brighter again.
1997 saw an unexpected move to France and the La Française Des Jeux team. Directeur Sportif Marc Madiot signed Davide and his brother Simone (indeed all the four sons of Gedeone Rebellin are infected with cycling passion) and Davide finally started to win the one day races that his fans had been waiting for. Victory in the Trophée des Grimpeurs was followed by bigger success in the Clasica San Sebastian and another World Cup success in the 1997 Kampioenschap van Zürich.
Rebellin returned to both Italy and Polti in 1998. In his first season back he won five races, including a stage in the Tour de Suisse, the Tre Valli Varesine and the first of three consecutive victories in the Giro del Veneto, his local race. 1999 was even more successful, including winning the Tour du Haut Var, the Mediterranean Tour and adding Giro Friuli to his list of Italian Classics.
In 2000 the demise of Polti saw Rebellin move to the Liquigas team, in spite of offers from bigger squads. Rebellin prefers to ride for smaller teams here he can have the responsibility of team Captain and there is a more “family” atmosphere. In spite of many high placings Rebellin only scored two victories, although one was the historic hat trick of Giro del Veneto. In 2001 however he simply could not stop winning. Overall in the Tour Mediterranean and the Tirreno-Adriatico and nine other victories plus a host of top ten finishes including second in Liege Bastogne Liege saw him have his most successful year of his career so far and move up to world ranked number three.
Liquigas gave up its team sponsorship in 2001 and once again Rebellin had to look again for a new team, which saw him arrive at Gerolsteiner at the start of the 2002 season.
However the early season did not go well. No victory, no particular showdown, not even in the race he set as one of his 2002 main targets, Liège-Bastogne-Liège: "I had planned to start the season slowly, in order to grow and be more competitive later, in Fleche Wallonne and LBL, and also be able to have my say in the Giro's first part. But I'm afraid I started even too slowly: I had only 27 days of racing, 10 less than in 2001."
Actually a lot of troubles and misfortune marred his early season right from the debut, as things kept going wrong in his first outing, France's Tour of the Mediterranean: "I caught an intestinal virus and had to take antibiotics which weakened me," the former number 1 in the UCI-ranking said. "Later I recovered and got to Tirreno-Adriatico in quite a good condition instead, but I crashed in Stage one and the outcome of the consequent contracture even led to a tendinitis, which affected my build-up again."
Rebellin , Frigo , Kessler, Arveson
Rebellin's misadventures continued well into April: "In the Tour of the Basque Country I felt quite good, but suffered from the bad weather, and all I got was a second place in the opening leg. Then I moved to Belgium, but things didn't change: Bettini's attack anticipated me in LBL, and even if I tried to chase him down, together with Boggerd, the escapees had taken too a high advantage on us, and my efforts proved useless."
All credit to the Gerolsteiner management, who by June were getting asking increasingly by the German press if they had made an expensive mistake. The management team of Rolf Golz, Christian Henn and Hans - Michael Holczer were united in their support of Rebellin.
Rolf Golz said in June -"Even if Rebellin does not win a race all season he has been value for money for us. He has brought a level of professionalism and experience which the whole team has benefited from. He has enabled us to move up one level that may have taken us two or three years to achieve without him, if at all."
Rebellin , takes the Luk Cup Bühl
Finally with his intestinal troubles troubles cured, Rebellin ended the second half of the season nearly back to his top form. Victories in the G.P. Citta di Camaiore and the Luk-Cup Bühl plus a host of second and third placings in races such as the GP Friuli, Giro Lazio, Giro Lombardia and GP Lugano saw him finish the season ranked ninth in the UCI listings and helped the Geolsteiner team move finish in 11th place in the UCI team rankings - enough to automatically qualify for a Tour de France place, which ironically enough, was not the best news for Rebellin!
He explained his aims for next season to the Gazzetta dello Sport:
"My objective is always the same, to win wherever and whenever I can! My main targets next season are the World Cup and World Championships. However it is likely that I will race the Tour de France and not the Giro. I am unhappy not to be able to ride the Giro, it is an ambition of mine to win that race before the end of my career, but my squad, the German Gerolsteiner, will be invited to the Grand Boucle and therefore we must concentrate on that race.
Luk Cup Bühl
"It is true that in past it has been difficult to maintain the same form and fitness from March until June, to be competitive in the classics and then to compete in the Tour. I would be delighted to win Liege Bastogne Liege, it is a race that is suited to me but I have never managed to win. In the first week of December I will start training again, but my program of races will be the same as last year: an early season debut in the Tour of the Mediterranean, then Laigueglia, Tirreno-Adriatic and then the Classic races."
Davide Rebellin, the quiet one, may be making big noises next season!
Photo thanks to Gerolsteiner and InterMax/Team Polti.Extra special thanks to Fabio and Florian and Susanne Schaaf of the great site