Italian veteran Davide Rebellin, looking for a contract following the dissolution of his Gerolsteiner team at the end of this season, will ride for Diquigiovanni in 2009.
The Italian news service ANSA reported that an accord has been reached for the 37-year-old Rebellin to join the Italian continental team for at least one season.
The Italian team, directed by the dapper Gianni Savio, will lead the classics squad for the team heading into next year. Rebellin completed the “Ardennes sweep” in 2004 when he won Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liège all in a row.
Rebellin was linked to the management team behind the Saunier Duval team, but team managers are struggling to find a new sponsor in the fallout of the doping scandal involving star riders Riccardo Riccò and Leonardo Piepoli.
The pair tested positive for CERA, a third-generation form of the banned blood booster EPO, during the 2008 Tour de France. Title sponsor Saunier Duval, a manufacturer of air-conditioning and heater units, promptly pulled the plug.
The team has been able to ride the remainder of the 2008 season under the “American Beef” logo as the Mexican beef producer stepped in to carry the team through the rest of the year.
Team officials told Spanish daily MARCA this week that an Italian sponsor that was supposed to step up for the 2009 season backed out due to the financial crisis sweeping across Europe, leaving the team scrambling for a new sponsor for next year.
Rebellin chose not to wait and joined Diquigiovanni. Whether the Italian team will earn many bids to race the spring classics remains to be seen, but the presence of Rebellin, one of the most consistent performers in the hilly Ardennes classics, will help the team’s chances.
The team’s grand tour hopes are anchored by two-time Giro d’Italia champ Gilberto Simoni, who hopes to ride one more Giro in 2009 before retiring.
Diguigiovanni for 2009
Davide Rebellin (I)
Gilberto Simoni (I)
Manuel Belletti (I)
Alessandro Bertolini (I)
Thomas Bertoliini (I)
Luca Celli (I)
Francesco Giannani (I)
Mattia Gavazzi (I)
Alberto Loddo (I)
Leonardo Moser (I)
Elia Rigotti (I)
Michele Scarponi (I)
Fabio Taborre (I)
Carlos Ochoa (Vz)
Jackson Rodriguez (Vz)
José Serpa (Col)
Luis Angel Maté (Sp)