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Rebellin at 45: ‘Age is not a limiter’

Davide Rebellin hopes to find success in new Continental team Kuwait – Cartucho, despite his own checkered past.

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Italian Davide Rebellin, 45, refuses to give up on pro cycling and hopes to still win races this 2017 season.

Rebellin, after years in top teams, signed with an unknown and new Continental team from the Middle East, Kuwait – His first race this 2017 season will be the Tour du Haut-Var, February 18 and 19.

“I hope I can still win,” Rebellin said at the team presentation last week. “I’m racing because my heart and legs tell me to keep going. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone.

“Above all, this is a sport of resistance. Age is not a limiter if you train correctly.”

The team, based in Alicante, Spain, also signed his former Gerolsteiner teammate Stefan Schumacher, Björn Thurau (from team Wanty – Groupe Gobert), and Songezo Jim (Dimension Data).

Veteran riders like Rebellin and Matteo Tosatto, 42, struggled to find teams this winter. Tosatto, who had helped Alberto Contador in Tinkoff, refused to ride for less than a WorldTour team and retired.

American Chris Horner, who won the 2013 Vuelta a España, raced through last year when he was 44 years old. He has yet to announce plans for 2017.

The small and bald Rebellin, who resides in Monaco, appeared on Kuwait – Cartucho’s Twitter feed in December shaking hands and confirming the deal with the unknown Persian Gulf team.

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“The team will grow over the years and has given me confidence,” Rebellin added. “We have a good calendar of races in Europe and Asia. I’m setting off to do well, I don’t have one single goal, but I want to give my best. I usually go well in February and throughout the rest of the season.”

The team put its faith in Rebellin despite a checkered past that included a doped silver medal win in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Rebellin became the first Italian to hand back an Olympic medal when he was busted for using CERA.

The result, confirmed by a B sample, cast a long and dark shadow over his career. He won the Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice general classifications, and in 2004 he swept the Ardennes classics — the Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

“No. No, I didn’t do it,” he told VeloNews last year when asked if he doped with EPO. “Also the Olympics was a story that was … I tried to defend myself, but I never had a ruling in my favor.”

He served a two-year suspension, from 2009 to 2011. He returned, but never with a top ProTour or WorldTour team.

“For sure, the two-year suspension was very bad,” he said. “I lost contacts; teams didn’t want me; the organizers didn’t want me. My salary was cut by at least half, or even more, much more.”

He loves cycling and persists among new professionals who are half his age.

In 2015, he won the Coppa Agostoni ahead of grand tour star Vincenzo Nibali, who is 13 years younger. Among the starters in the Tour du Haut-Var this month are 20-year-old Dorian Godon (Cofidis) and Rebellin’s 20-year-old teammate Edwin Torres.

“I want to be an example of longevity,” explained Rebellin. “I’m showing that if one wants to, he can keep going into his 40s.”