Davide Rebellin on still being at the top of cycling at 50

Rebellin beat the best in his prime

At 50 years old, some assess what they have done in their life; others think about what to expect.

Others live fully in the present – and Davide Rebellin is one of them. Sitting at his team’s headquarters in Padua, northeastern Italy – surrounded by jerseys from his career hanging proudly on the wall – he raves about the characteristics of modern cycling, the secret of its longevity and what l still waiting.

Cycling has changed a lot in recent decades. The general level has increased and the races are fiercely contested from the first to the last pedal stroke; athletes follow iron training regimes and nutrition tables; dieticians, psychologists and mental coaches are part of the game; data is collected and evaluated in real time and sport directors dictate strategies, leaving less room for runners’ intuition.

Rebellin, who turned 50 a few days ago, knows everything. Now part of the strong professional team of the UCI Work Service-Marchiol-Vega, his career has taken place in teams from Croatia, Kuwait, Tunisia, Hungary and Cambodia.

The Italian, who has a rich history in prestigious outfits such as GB-MG, Polti, Française des Jeux, Luquigas and Gerolsteiner, can look 30 years in the pro peloton and has experienced these changes in his own skin.

“The races have gotten very nervous, you can’t relax at any time, not even for a second. Technology has taken leaps and bounds, from the wheels to the aerodynamics and to the clothes.

“Nutrition is another topic. Years ago some riders started the season with a few extra pounds, now they’re all in great shape. Cycling has become even more exhausting.”

Davide Rebellin
Rebellin wins Olympic silver

The back of a young peloton

And so the age of the competitors has changed, with riders competing in the Grand Tours in their very early 20s – something that never would have happened 20 years ago. This gives good opportunities to champions like Tadej Pogacar, Egan Bernal and Remco Evenepoel, but it also hides a setback.

“The pace is extreme, the workouts more precise and the tests from a mental point of view, nutrition has become an obsession. Look at Tom Dumoulin: he’s back now. [having taken a seven-month career sabbatical], but you can lose important talents along the way. At 25, you must already reach the peak of your career. I did my best after I turned 30. “

But if cycling has become less fun and more stressful, what is it that drives an extremely successful 50-year-old cyclist to keep going?

Rebellin was the first athlete to win all three Ardennes Classics – the Amstel Gold Race, Liège-Bastogne-Lièges and the Flèche Wallonne in one week – but with a total of over 60 professional successes he still has the excitement of ‘a child.

“It’s all about the passion. Training hard and following a precise program is normal for me. I’m a little worried about what will happen next, because my body still demands it. The urge is there and I will continue as long as I will be competitive and have fun. When my time comes, I will quit.

“People like me, even more than when I won, because they know how difficult it is against younger drivers. I even raced with some of the sons of my old competitors. get a lot of support from amateurs on social media, they praise my passion and longevity, i know i’m a role model and that motivates me.

“I’m a lucky man because I do what I love the most; riding has never been a job. I get up in the morning and go out on my bike, I have no fixed working hours and I’m still living my dream. I won races that I dreamed of as a kid and I’m still here, it’s awesome. “

However, professional life is not easy, especially at 50 years old. Your body is not what you had when you were 20 and requires different workloads; the goals cannot be the same and the teams you ride for.

“I have a lot of experience and I know myself. I don’t have a trainer or a nutritionist, I know how to train and what to eat. My training method is the one I used when I started, despite some changes As you age, what you lose the most is strength; I’ve always had stamina and I don’t need to train with 50.

“I spend six or seven hours on my bike, but it’s a pleasure. I train my explosiveness, with specific work on the road and indoors. Other times you would train first and get back into shape during races, now you have to be in great shape before you put a number on your back.

“Recently I finished 10th in the Adriatica-Ionica and the Sibiu Tour in Romania. My goal is always to do my best, especially when the race is right for me, but it cannot be to win the race on my own. age What really matters is enthusiasm, motivation and willpower.

“For years I was one of the men to beat. That perspective has changed, but it hasn’t been a painful process. The pressure comes mostly from oneself, my competitive spirit is intact, but I am more aware. “

Beryl burton

Beryl Burton (1937-1996) The British cyclist, above, who has won the world title in road racing twice and five gold in track cycling, was still racing at 48.
Kazuyoshi Miura (1967-) The Japanese footballer is still 54 years old – played for the best clubs in Brazil and Europe
Mario Andretti (1940-) American racing driver who won the F1 and IndyCar titles among many other accolades. I was trying to win Le Mans at 60 in 2000.

The secret of longevity

The secret to Rebellin’s longevity is no secret at all, but the result of natural talent, passion and a balanced lifestyle.

“Love and passion are the key to training and running, nutrition and sleep. My wife and I live simple lives at home; we get up at 6.30am, do some muscle toning , let’s have a good breakfast and then I leave my bike around 9:30 am I eat a light meal on my return, then we have dinner around six and go to bed at nine.

“You can feel the benefits of such a regular life. I’m almost a vegetarian, but it’s hard to keep up in hotels. I haven’t eaten red meat for years and have been gluten-free since 1997. I have one. a balanced diet, I recover faster and feel better. Food is your engine’s fuel. “

He also had his disappointments, and dealing with them – especially when he was forfeited Olympic silver medal on road after a positive doping test – help him prepare for the next stage of his life.

“I had some setbacks in my career, such as the revocation of the silver medal that I had won at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I was cleared by the Italian courts. [department]; I feel that this medal belongs to me although it is not with me. It was a turning point in my career; I was suspended for two years, but it was as if it had been seven or eight.

“No big team wanted me anymore, the organizers avoided me. It was a difficult time, although I continued to train as if I was going to resume racing the next day. When I took over in 2011, I started winning from the start. I was 33 years old. but I really hit my peak.

“Everyone knew my worth, but no one wanted to give me a chance; it also pushed me to keep going and prove them wrong. I won the Giro dell’Emilia at 44, but it really didn’t change anything.

“Today I also like helping my younger teammates, I’m a kind of sporting director in the peloton. I think less about my own result and put myself more at their service, setting the pace and cutting the wind.”

Rebellin also seems well prepared for the future. “It’s all about passion. I’m a lucky man because I do what I love the most.”

Following this interview, Rebellin crashed during the Marco Pantani Memorial Race in Italy on September 18, suffering from broken legs. He is expected to have surgery in the next few days.

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