Davide Rebellin, 47, is putting off plans for retirement after fans at the Italian National Championships motivated him to continue.
Rebellin, winner of all three Ardennes Classics in 2004, planned to end his career with the championships on Sunday. He finished 18th and announced on Facebook he would continue.
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“A big thank you to the many fans who supported me at the Italian Championship,” he wrote. “It was a challenging race, for the heat and hard from the start. I’m still satisfied with my 18th place.
“So many of you asked me if this was my last race or if I’d continue. The emotions and warmth that I felt are too strong and my desire to continue to repay this love is too strong. I want to have some good feelings again and pass them on to you too.
“So I decided to race again because even with the idea of being a helper, I can feel my heart beat.”
He races with Croatian team Meridiana-Kamen, having recently finished the Tour of Slovenia. Next year, he could race with a new Hungarian Professional Continental team, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.
It would continue a career that began in 1992. Rebellin won his first victory in the Giro d’Italia stage to Monte Sirino in 1996 and the Ardennes triple in 2004. He has also taken overall victories in prestigious week-long stage races Tirreno-Adriatico, in 2001, and Paris-Nice, in 2008.
His career was marked by an EPO doping case after the 2008 Beijing Olympic road race, the season he had raced for Gerolsteiner. He had to return the silver medal he had won behind Samuel Sánchez.
Sánchez was this year was suspended for two years for using human growth hormones in 2017.
Rebellin’s 18th place on Sunday came behind new Italian Champion Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe), 21 years younger. His last win came last year in stage 2 of the Tour International de la Wilaya d’Oran.