By Gregor Brown in Varese
Davide Rebellin has explained that he was able to help produce an Italian quinella and finish fourth in the world championship road race last Sunday despite not being in top condition.
"I was not very brilliant. I was up front but I missed a little something," said Rebellin after the race. It was his highest ever placing at the worlds, two spots up from last year's championship in Stuttgart.
Rebellin's teammates Marzio Bruseghin, Gabriele Balducci, Andrea Tonti, Matteo Tosatto and Luca Paolini did the forcing in the early part of the race for team leader Paolo Bettini while Rebellin kicked into action in the race's finale with Ballan and Cunego.
"In the last three laps the true race started," explained Rebellin, winner of multiple Spring Classics and this year's Paris-Nice emerged as a contender after the peloton had captured the day's three-man move. Ballan went to the front on the second half of the Ronchi climb in the penultimate circuit, taking Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet, Breschel, Spain's Joaquím Rodríguez and Germany's Fabian Wegmann with him. Rebellin and Cunego joined the move with Dutchman Robert Gesink, Austrian Christian Pfannberger and Ukraine's Andriy Grivko to set up a thrilling climax.
Rebellin fired twice on the final time up Ronchi but was marked both times. However, his actions weakened the rivals for Ballan's final blow.
"We had a problem with the ear pieces and I could not hear very well, but I knew that we had 50 seconds. We were in three and we had a certain guarantee - Ale, Damiano and me. I told them to give it a go on the climb and for Ale to try on the false flat, and it went well.
"We tried more than one time... 'Ale' is worthy of the win, he did one of his moves."
Bettini officially retired after the race, but Rebellin - two and a half years older than his compatriot - will continue racing. There is no contract in place for 2009 after the departure of Gerolsteiner from its sponsorship role, although reports linked him with Team LPR Brakes earlier this year.
"We wanted to give Bettini a great gift. Me? I will continue to race - I don't know where, but I will continue racing."