By Gregor Brown
Davide Rebellin may be in the twilight of his career but he showed why he is considered one of the classiest riders around by winning Wednesday's 71st Flèche Wallonne. The Italian, known as 'Tin-Tin', schooled younger rivals to conquer the Classic for a second time in his career.
Rebellin cunningly passed his time in the chase until the break containing Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) was pulled back at three kilometres remaining. He was back in the race with a chance at victory as the race arrived at the base of the Mur de Huy. The 35 year-old repeated his 2004 victory when he kicked clear with 200 metres to go.
"It was a day without stress for me," said Rebellin after taking his second career win in Flèche. "I made it the finale and it was possible to go for the win. I risked a lot because the escape of Di Luca and Valverde was dangerous."
Astana's Alexander Vinokourov and Matthias Kessler took over the charge once the race hit the base of the Huy. The aggression pleased Rebellin. "The climbs went well," he continued. "In the finale, Vinokourov did a lot of work, then Kessler, the peloton was all lined out. I think it was a little far out for them but it worked well for me."
Thinking back and forward
In 2004 he first won the Flèche on his way to making history; he had already taken victory in the Amstel Gold three days before and came good in Liège-Bastogne-Liège four days later. The successful Ardennes week was the first time that cycling had ever seen such a Triple. Three years later, the rider from Verona showed his class once more.
"From 2004 I think I have come along well," he said with a light grin. "It was an advantage that there was no rain this year, I liked the weather better this way; sunny.
"That year was magical because it was surrounded by the other two wins. Last year, I had intestinal problems, and the previous year I did not feel so well. I had a little bit of bad luck over those years. But with the years passing I have come to know myself very well."
Tin-Tin figures he could go on racing until he is 37 years-old by specializing in the races that suit his style. "If I keep getting results, I will go on," said Rebellin, whose last win came in October 2006, with the overall of the Giro dell'Emilia. "The desire is there; maybe I will go on through 2009. If I can train well and limit my courses, to these one-day races. So I think I can continue in this manner."
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