By Gregor Brown
Italian Davide Rebellin, 48 years old, is being forced into retirement without a team for 2020 after the new EPowers Factory Team failed to materialise.
Rebellin, winner of all three Ardennes Classics in 2004, planned to continue into the following season when he would turn 49 years old with the Hungarian-Italian Professional Continental cycling team on Ridley bikes.
Others left without a 2020 contract include Darwin Atapuma, the Colombian who was joining from Team Cofidis. Given the start of the Giro d'Italia in Budapest, he, Rebellin and the team had a chance to enter on one of the two wildcard invitations.
Some 35 members received an e-mail, according to Marca, that said the EPowers team would not happen.
"Dear members of the EPowers Factory team: we inform you that the negotiations between the sponsors and the EPowers Factory team have not yet ended. For this reason, the team did not meet the deadline established to obtain the UCI license," read a letter to the staff.
"This unfortunate situation led to the inevitable conclusion of the authorisation process for the Professional Continental license. This means that we will not be able to have the license, that we will not be able to participate in next year's WorldTour races and, therefore, to the inevitable termination of contracts between EPowers Factory Team, riders and staff members. Thank you very much for believing in our project, for the confidence and professionalism demonstrated in this period. We wish you all the best for next year."
Reportedly, day after day leading to this moment, the team's prospects of a licence and a future looked darker and darker. Eventually, it became one of cycling's failure stories along with the Linda McCartney Team, Sony-Ericsson by Giancarlo Ferretti and Pegasus Sports by Chris White.
"This year I worked so hard, the dream was there and instead they misled us, and wasted our time," Gregorio Ferri, an under 23 Italian hoping to become professional told CicloWeb.
"Many kids had already quit. And to stop like this is really humiliating. They had promised us the Giro d'Italia and the presence in all the Italian classics. The contracts were good. I don't want to take it out on anyone, but it's certainly not correct. They screwed us."
Rebellin wanted to continue a career that began in 1992. He won his first victory in the 1996 Giro d'Italia, a stage to Monte Sirino and the Ardennes Classics triple in 2004, becoming the only rider to do so until he was joined by Philippe Gilbert in 2011. He also won Flèche Wallonne in 2007 and 2009.
His career was tainted by an EPO doping positive that forced him to return the silver medal he won at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
He never lost his desire to race, even this summer when it looked like he might stop he said: "The emotions and warmth that I felt [from my fans] 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. I decided to race again because even with the idea of being a helper, I can feel my heart beat."