Davide Rebellin was killed Wednesday after being struck by a truck while training in northern Italy. He was 51.
The Italian rider was the last of his generation to still be racing. In fact, he only retired a few weeks ago, and he was out on a training ride when tragedy struck. Police are still investigating the incident.
Rebellin’s career spanned parts of four decades. Turning pro in the early 1990s after racing as an amateur at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, Rebellin was part of Italy’s “golden generation” that ruled much of the 1990s and the early 2000s in both stage racing and classics.
Il a quelques jours nous faisions notre dernière course pros à Monaco et aujourd’hui tu es parti rejoindre les étoiles. Je pense très fort à Françoise et ta famille. Je suis très triste tu vas nous manquer amico. RIP #DavideRebellin pic.twitter.com/8vN2rBKBPe
— Philippe Gilbert (@PhilippeGilbert) November 30, 2022
Rebellin was a peer and rival of the biggest names of his era, from Marco Pantani and Lance Armstrong, to Alexander Vinokourov and Paolo Bettini.
Rebellin’s palmarès included 62 victories, including the Ardennes treble of winning Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in succession in 2004.
Rebellin never won a grand tour — his career best in 17 grand tour starts was sixth in the 1996 Giro d’Italia when he won a stage and held the pink jersey early in the race — but he did excel in one-week stage races. He counted Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico among his many wins.
His racing trajectory didn’t come without controversy, and he was banned for two years by the Italian federation when he tested positive for the banned blood booster CERA after winning the silver medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
Instead of being a career highlight, Rebellin soon discovered he couldn’t find a top team willing to sign him when he returned. He never raced at the top level again, and after racing a few seasons at the now-defunct Team CCC, Rebellin finished off his career at a string of third-tier Continental teams across Asia and Europe.
RIP Davide Rebellin.
Our thoughts are with Davide’s loved ones on this tragic occasion. pic.twitter.com/oDYL7YEGB5
— Trek-Segafredo (@TrekSegafredo) November 30, 2022
He defied the hands of time, and raced throughout his 40s and into his early 50s. His last UCI-ranked victory came in 2017, but he was still competitive to the end.
Rebellin raced until he was 51, a record in modern cycling. After leaving Team CCC in 2016, he raced another seven seasons on a string of third-tier Continental teams. In 2021, he raced with Work Service Vitalcare Vega, an Italian-backed Continental team, and finished 12th in the Adriatica Ionica Race in June.
Those who knew him well remember him for his passion for racing, his kindness, and his dedication to training.
He raced at the UCI-sanctioned gravel world championships in October and his final appearance came at the charity race Beking in Monaco in late November.
VeloNews looks back at the many highs and lows during his long career:
Turning pro in the 1990s
Rebellin raced the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona as an amateur, and turned pro with the Italian squad GB-MG Maglificio that summer.
His first pro win came the next season at the Hofbrau Cup, and by 1996, he won a stage and held the pink jersey during the Giro d’Italia to mark his arrival among the elite of the peloton.
Victories in 1997 at the Clásica San Sebastián and the now-defunct GP de Suisse, both part of the former World Cup series, saw him emerge as an explosive rider and a major force in the one-day classics.
Coming out of the 1990s and into the early 2000s, Rebellin raced against some of the biggest names and most notorious riders of the controversial era.
Winning the Ardennes treble
In 2002, Rebellin joined the scandal-tainted Gerolsteiner team that later saw several riders banned for doping.
Rebellin would sweep the so-called Ardennes treble in 2004, winning Amstel, Flèche, and Liège in a row. Other wins during this era included the 2001 Tirreno-Adriatico and the 2008 Paris-Nice.
Ill-fated Olympic silver medal in Beijing
Rebellin won an ill-fated and controversial silver medal in the elite men’s road race in Beijing. He finished behind gold medalist Samuel Sánchez and ahead of Fabian Cancellara in bronze.
Anti-doping controls later found traces of the banned blood booster CERA, a type of EPO-style product. Rebellin was one of six athletes across all sports who tested positive for a banned doping product during the Beijing Olympics.
He later served a two-year ban, and returned to racing in 2011 with Miche-Guerciotti.
Racing into his early 50s
Most riders retire in their 30s. Not Rebellin.
Despite his sometimes controversial past, those close to him marveled at his passion for training and dedication to racing. He vowed to continue with his career, and joined the second-tier Team CCC from 2013 to 2016.
After leaving the team, he raced with a series of minor, third-tier teams, but always produced results. He raced with such teams as Kuwait-Cartucho (2017), Sovac (2018-2019), Meridiana Kamen (2019-2020), and Work Service (2021-22).
After retiring in October with a trio of one-day races on Italian roads, Rebellin raced the UCI-sanctioned gravel worlds and lined up at the Beking fundraiser event in Monte Carlo alongside Philippe Gilbert and top WorldTour pros just last weekend.
On Wednesday, he was training as he always does. Police are still inquiring about what happened, but a collision with a truck ended his life. He was married, with no children. He died at 51.