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An interview with Davide Rebellin, April 25, 2004
Liberation, confirmation and realisation
Davide Rebellin's incredible triple
"Liberation, confirmation and realisation" were the words Davide Rebellin used to sum up his three big victories this week. First there was the Amstel Gold Race, then Flèche Wallonne, and now Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Only a handful of riders have won the Fleche/Liège double, and no-one has ever won all three in the same year. Cyclingnews' Chief Online Editor Jeff Jones was there to witness each victory, and reports from Liège about Rebellin's amazing week.
"In fact it was incredible, unbelievable. Three races that I have dreamed of since I was a child. Three races that up until now I had only finished with podium places. I came again to the north to try and finally win one. Now I've won all three in a week. It's completely incredible!"
Those were the first words that the 32 year old Gerolsteiner captain Davide Rebellin used to describe his unprecedented successes this week, brought about through a combination of a powerful sprint and perhaps even more importantly, an ability to read the race better than anyone else.
"I consider my first victory in Amstel a liberation after two years of misery and health problems. The second win in Flèche Wallonne was the confirmation that the first success was no fluke. And today was really the realisation that I can win all these races, to finish in front with the best in the right break."
Rebellin again benefited from a 'scripted' race, where a breakaway containing one of his teammates reached a 10 minute lead in the opening half of the race, forcing the other teams on the defensive to lead the chase on the return run to Liège. From then on it became a selection race, and Rebellin was there on the Cote de St Nicolas with 6 km to go when Boogerd and Vinokourov attacked. "It went as perfectly as I could have wanted," Rebellin described the race. "A good speed, and a non-threatening break, with riders who weren't too dangerous for the win. In short, I could spare my strength for the finale."
Once again playing his cards right, Rebellin had expended less energy than either Boogerd or Vinokourov before St Nicolas, and this worked in his favour. "I realised that I couldn't pull off a coup in the style of a super champion, who could ride the others off his wheel one by one in a break with 30 km to go. I profited from the work of others. From teammates, from aggressive rivals. Thus in the closing kilometres I held the most reserves, and I could win in the sprint. Call it a result of a clear race."
Rebellin's knowledge of his rivals also helped when Vinokourov took off with 1.5 km to go, and was chased down by Boogerd with Rebellin on his wheel. "I've begun to know Boogerd a little," Rebellin noted. "He is very strong and I knew that he would not risk giving Vino too much of an advantage. He would never him walk away with it. I could calmly wait and then take his slipstream. Believe me, if he had waited a bit longer, I would have gone myself. I was ready for it."
After winning 11 races in 2001, Rebellin's victories in 2002 and 2003 numbered just five in total, although he gained numerous second and third placings. He attributed this downturn in form to an intestinal virus that took a long time to get rid of. Things certainly seem to be going in his favour again.
"Now I'm a different rider," he explained. "First and foremost there is the question of my physical condition to realise these things. I prepared for this week just as I had always done. Or partly. Don't forget that I've lost two years because of persistent health problems. Maybe the two best seasons of my career. I've put those problems behind me now and luckily I've never lost faith and stayed motivated to work hard. Above all I'm very relaxed and confident."
With three huge wins behind him now, Rebellin said that there is more to come. "That's the plan. It doesn't stop here! Next Saturday I ride in Frankfurt and then there is the Giro. I definitely have no GC ambitions, but I would like to win a stage and wear the maglia rosa. For me it would be a nice exchange with this white World Cup leader's jersey. That [the World Cup] is also now a real objective. And then there are the Olympic Games and the World Championships in Verona, my home territory. No, Liège is no end point. You should always look forward."
Finally, Rebellin wished to dedicate his win and thank his friends and fans. "I dedicate this to the whole team for their great work as well to Denis [Zanette], who is always with me. His strength was there today and he gave me the courage to win. And thank you to all those who supported me in the difficult moments of my career.
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