Sunday in Valkenburg, Italy's Davide Rebellin proved he was on target for his beloved Classics of the North: Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Gregor Brown of Cyclingnews talked with the 36 year-old about the Ardennes and his plans for the future, which includes hopes of Worlds gold.
Even if the rider known as 'Tintin' did not capture the 43rd Amstel Gold on Sunday he did issue a threat that he is on form to potentially blast his rivals in Wednesday's Flèche Wallonne or, more importantly, Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège. And the thing is, Rebellin has the relaxed demeanour that will carry him calmly to the arrivals in Huy and Ans.
The relaxedness comes from his win in the Tour du Haut Var and, greater still, Paris-Nice. He slipped the dagger quickly into his opponents when he struck in the prestigious French race's penultimate stage, 206 kilometres to Cannes. "Normally, Paris-Nice serves for preparation – the best preparations for arriving at the Ardennes Classics on form. Maybe my condition arrived a little early this year, and I found myself in a position to win the race," he stated with some modesty at the team's headquarters for the Ardennes Classics, in Belgium's Riemst.
In 2007, he was close to winning, but he was out-classed by Alberto Contador (who, you may remember, went on to win the Tour de France). This year, Rebellin did not disappoint, and it was he who out-classed with ease – namely over Rabobank's Robert Gesink.
"I never have won that race, it is surely a great race to win," added Rebellin. "Now, I am able to come here to the classics a lot calmer and this will allow me to race even better. You make fewer mistakes this way – when you are always on the hunt and worried for wins you can feel the pressure and you become nervous."
Even though Rebellin does not get as nervous as some of the first-year professionals, he explained that "There is always a bit of nervousness, even if it appears that I am not nervous. A bit of tension is normal. If everything is going well then you are calmer. Moreover, inside I know that I have already accomplished some good things in my career and this allows me to approach the races with a kind of tranquillity."
Rebellin did not feel all that calm with only a slight advantage heading into the final stage of the 'Race to the Sun' – a stage that finished close to his home base in Monte Carlo. "There is always the worry of a mechanical or a crash. However, you have to always stay concentrated and that equally applies to these races [Ardennes Classics - ed.] here. You have to focus and remind yourself to stay at the front and out of trouble.
Read the full feature as Rebellin heads into the final two Spring Classics.