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Davide Rebellin (CCC Polstat)
Italian veteran considering several options for 2015
"I hope I will close my career in a WorldTour team," Rebellin told Cyclingnews at the Tour of Poland, where he leads Pro-Continental team CCC Polsat Polkowice. "I want to show it's possible to win big races aged 43.
"I miss the big classics," he added. "Especially the Ardennes, Milan-San Remo, Il Lombardia, Clasica San Sebastian and all the ex-World Cup events where I had a few successes earlier in my career."
The winner of the Ardennes triple in 2004 (Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège) says that he hasn’t signed a contract for 2015 yet and is considering several options. "But my current team, CCC Polsat, is also a solid one and they are going to grow again," he said.
The team received a string of invitations for high-level races this year, which meant that Rebellin could compete in the Amstel Gold Race, where he finished 13th.
Rebellin became the first Italian athlete to be stripped of an Olympic medal for doping when he returned a positive test for EPO-Cera at the Beijing Olympics. The positive test was only announced in April 2009, shortly after Rebellin won Flèche Wallonne for the third time, and he was handed a two-year ban.
An eventual come back to WorldTour might help the Italian veteran to draw a line under the controversy that ensued, or his return might simply add more fuel to the fire and further stoke the ire of cycling fans.
"I don't need to fight for my image," Rebellin said. "I am fortunate to have many fans who have always supported me."
Cyclingnews noticed that the Classics expert makes a big effort to talk to the public and journalists, signing autographs and posing for photos, while many races organizers offer him an invitation as they know that he will provide a show on and off his bike.
Asked if he has "regrets" about his doping case, Rebellin answers firmly: "Of course. But I don't want to discuss this story now. My main regrets is that I left the WorldTour peloton for two years and I know that without what happened I still would perform on the highest level races."
Rebellin went back to cycling through Continental squads (third division): Miche-Guerciotti (Italy) and Meridiana Kamen (Croatia), before joining CCC Polsat-Polkowice in 2013. He's taken nine victories since he's returned, including one-day races Tre Valli Varesine and Trofeo Melinda in 2011.
"I don't know when I will stop my career," he said. "Each race provides me new emotions and I am still hungry for that. I train almost the same as I did 15 years ago. I will remain a professional rider as long as I keep this motivation inside myself."