By Gregor Brown in Maastricht
Italy's Davide Rebellin arrived as calm as he possibly ever has for the start of the Ardennes week thanks to his win in the Paris-Nice last month. The 36-year-old of Gerolsteiner – known as 'Tintin' among fans and in the peloton – looks to strike on the Cauberg where he last won in 2004 and where he helped his team-mate, Stefan Schumacher, win last year.
"I arrived here last night," confirmed Rebellin to Cyclingnews from the team's hotel in Belgium, just across the border from Maastricht and the start of Sunday's 43rd Amstel Gold Race. The rider from Veneto, who now lives in Monaco, won the race in 2004 on his way to become the only rider to win all three Ardennes Classics; Amstel, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, in the same year.
"My memories with this area really started in 1999 [sic, 2000 -ed.] – I was third at Liège. Then I had the second place in 2001 and I won in 2004," he continued. However, even with his successes, Rebellin is at ease going into the 257.4-kilometre Dutch Classic.
"I did two and a quarter hours today [Saturday], with the last part behind the car to get the rhythm right; this will get my legs at the right place for tomorrow. Normally, I try to arrive in good form for these races because they suit my style and I am able to win these. So, every year I prefer to have this schedule. These small climbs are good for me, and if it is a long classic, over 150 kilometres, I go well."
His tranquility is helped by the win in the prestigious French stage race, Paris-Nice, where he overcame his rivals on the final two stages near his home base in Monte Carlo. This win last March reassured him his training schedule is on track for the Ardennes, even if there was some doubt about his form coming on a little too early. "I was a little bit worried, but my programme was how it was in the other years," confirmed Rebellin. "Maybe my condition arrived so soon because this year I did not have any physical problems, nor did I come down with a cold."
In 2007, Rebellin came away with the runner-up spot to his team-mate, German Stefan Schumacher, before going on to win La Flèche Wallonne three days later and finishing fifth in Liège-Bastogne-Liège the following Sunday. "I will try to win one again this year, for sure," he assured. "Liège is maybe the most important and the hardest of the three; if I had the chance and selecting it would be Liège, but I would really take any of them."
The help will come from his younger team-mate, a force that is welcomed by Rebellin. "It is good that the team has Schumacher to help play the role of dual leadership. Last year, he was still a little unknown and was able to play his cards in the right way. This year, it will be different because he is better known and the race will be following him, like for me. Therefore, we have to be attentive when and where we go – move in the right moments. ... I know that having someone like Schumacher in the team is very helpful."
He added that they can decide who will win if the are both still in the mix at the race's final climb. "If we arrive on the Cauberg tougher, then it will be up to us to decide who is the strongest to win the race."
The Italian has intimate knowledge of the course, which, with all of its twist and turns, seems to suit a home rider. "Amstel is very hard," stated Rebellin. "There are always climbs and descents, a lot of turns – it is nervous. All of these at the end add up; is a heavy burden and it takes its toll on the head. The Cauberg, which we do three times, is tough. The arrival will usually have 15 or 20 riders, and the strongest will win."
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month*
Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Thank you for signing up to Cyclingnews. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.