Davide Rebellin, the former classics star who only retired from professional cycling last month after 30 years in the peloton, was killed earlier today in a reported hit-and-run collision involving a lorry driver.
According to local newspaper Il Gazzettino, the 51-year-old was struck by the truck driver while training in the town of Montebello Vicentino, in the northern Italian province of Vicenza, and killed instantly.
The motorist, who reportedly was exiting a roundabout, failed to stop at the scene of the collision, which took place just before noon today.
Carabinieri are currently working to track down the driver and reconstruct the incident, with one theory they are reportedly working on suggesting that the lorry driver may, for some reason, have been unaware of the collision, hence the failure to stop at the scene.
According to pictures from the scene, the crash happened on the exit from the roundabout to a bar and restaurant called Il La Padana, which Google Street View suggests is used by lorry drivers given the HGVs parked there, the location lying close to the A4 Trieste-Turin motorway.
Turning professional with the GB-MG Maglificio team after competing in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Rebellin enjoyed one of cycling’s most remarkably enduring careers.
His longest spell with one team, and his greatest successes, came while riding with Gerolsteiner between 2002 and 2008, although his achievements there, particularly in one-day classics and week-long stage races, were somewhat overshadowed by his eventual doping ban.
Highlights included a famous ‘Ardennes triple’ (winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Flèche Wallonne, and the Amstel Gold Race in the same week) in 2004, a feat only Philippe Gilbert, in 2011, has matched in the men’s peloton.
Rebellin leads the Schleck brothers and Alejandro Valverde at the 2008 Liège-Bastogne-Liège (credit: Les Meloures)
After winning the overall title at an epic edition of Paris-Nice in March 2008, Rebellin (on his 37th birthday) went on to take second place for Italy behind Spain’s Samuel Sanchez in the road race at the Beijing Olympics.
However, he was subsequently stripped of his silver medal and banned for two years after testing positive at the Games for CERA, the EPO variant first discovered being used in the peloton at that year’s Tour de France.
Following his return from his ban in 2011, and now into his 40s, Rebellin rode for a succession of second- and third-tier teams, mainly based outside Italy, most notably the Polish UCI Continental outfit CCC.
During his 30-year spell in the peloton, he also won two further editions of Flèche Wallonne, in 2007 and 2009 (the latter coming just days before his positive CERA test was revealed), the Clásica San Sebastián in 1997, and the 2001 edition of Tirreno-Adriatico.
The Italian brought the curtain down on his professional racing career, at the age of 51, at last month’s Veneto Classic, where he finished 30th. On Sunday, he raced in the Beking Monaco criterium, a charity event around the city’s Port Hercules won by fellow retiree Gilbert.
The Belgian was among those to pay tribute to their former colleague on social media today.
“A few days ago we were doing our last pro race in Monaco and today you left to join the stars,” Gilbert posted on Twitter. “I think very strongly of Françoise and your family. I am very sad, we will miss you amico.”
Alejandro Valverde, another recently retired classics star famed for his longevity, wrote: “My deepest condolences to the family and friends of Davide Rebellin, a professional colleague and rival for so many years.”
I can not believe it; Davide Rebellin was still with us Sunday night in Monaco for the @BEKINGevents and even celebrated for his long career at the Gala Dinner. All my prayers are going for him to support his family, friends and colleagues. Rest in Peace Campione pic.twitter.com/jeSmkV1VLU
— John Lelangue (@johnlelangue) November 30, 2022
Rebellin’s tragic death comes just five-and-a-half years after another leading Italian pro, 2011 Giro d’Italia champion Michele Scarponi, was killed after being struck by a van driver while riding in his hometown of Filottrano in Italy’s Marche region.
The 37-year-old was on a training ride ahead of that year’s 100th edition of the Giro, where he was due to lead his Astana team after Fabio Aru was ruled out through injury, when carpenter Giuseppe Giacconi hit him at a junction.
Giacconi, who reportedly admitted to prosecutors that he had been watching a video on his mobile phone at the time of the fatal crash, had been consumed by grief since the death of the popular rider and passed away less than a year later.
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.