Davide Rebellin has suggested he could race until his fifties, insisting age is not a problem as he prepares for his 25th season as a professional rider.
The 46-year-old Italian signed with the Belgian Natura4Ever-Sovac Continental team this week. He turned professional after the 1992 Barcelona Olympics but has no plans to retire.
"I live year to year, day to day. I haven't set myself any limits and finish lines. If I struggled to finish races or wasn't good enough, I'd stop. That's not the case for now," Rebellin told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"Celebrate my 50th birthday in the peloton? I don't know if it'll happen, it's not a goal but why not? It's possible."
"I'm not interested in setting any age records. Numbers bore me. When people ask me my age I sometimes have to think for a few seconds. I let the pleasures in life guide me, not my age."
Rebellin claimed his greatest success in 2004, when he won Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in the same week, although he failed to earn selection for the Italian team for that year's Athens Olympics, and failed in his bid to ride for Argentina at the subsequent World Championships in Verona.
In 2008, Rebellin claimed the silver medal in the road race at the Beijing Olympics, but he became the first Italian athlete in history to be stripped of an Olympic medal when a re-test of his anti-doping sample the following year showed that he had tested positive for the blood booster CERA. News of the positive test came days after Rebellin had claimed his third Flèche Wallonne victory in April 2009, and he was eventually handed a two-year suspension and fired by the Androni team.
Rebellin returned to the peloton in 2011 but found himself persona non grata among WorldTour and Professional Continental teams, and signed for Continental outfit Miche. He then spent a season at Meridiana before joining Pro Continental team CCC-Polsat in 2013.
Rebellin has never admitted to any wrongdoing and has always danced his way around questions about doping. "It was something that has affected my career. I had a lot of doors closed in my face. But I look ahead. I'm happy."
After four years with the Polish squad – and wins that included the Giro dell'Emilia, Coppa Agostoni and a stage of the Tour of Turkey – Rebellin dropped back down to Continental level with Kuwait-Cartucho.es in 2017, where he raced largely on the Asia Tour, winning the Tour de Banyuwangi Ijen and a stage of the Tour of Iran-Azerbaijan.
Rebellin claimed he had contact with several teams for 2018, including from the new-look Vital Concept team manager Jerome Pineau that has secured Bryan Coquard as a team leader. However, he opted to sign with Natura4Ever-Sovac. The team has also signed Youcef Reguigui from Dimension Data, and four young Algerians from a team Sovac sponsored this season.
"The Natura4Ever-Sovac team manager Geoffrey Coupé has contacted me several times over the years, he wanted me to ride for his team before I quit. He raced as a pro and saw me as a kind of idol. This was the most interesting offer and I could stay with the team after I retire."
Despite his chequered past, Rebellin claims he receives lots of support from fans and his fellow riders in the professional peloton.
"I feel some kind of innate drive that keeps me going. I pin on a race number and always want to give my best," he said. "I don't sense any negative feeling towards me, there's always lots of encouragement via social media. People see me as an example. Most riders in the peloton could be my children but they say nice things. I don't think about my age but rather about the good things experience brings: experience, contemplation and attention to detail."
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