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Andrea Tafi, 52, says he has a team for Roubaix comeback

The Italian won the 1999 edition of Paris-Roubaix and wants to return to the race next season to challenge for another title.

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Andrea Tafi continues on his unlikely comeback to race Paris-Roubaix on the 20th anniversary of his victory. Tafi, 52, tells the Belgian press that he already has found a team that has agreed to take him on in his quest for a return to the Hell of the North.

“I already have a team, but I cannot tell you which,” Tafi told Het Laatste Nieuws.

Tafi, who won Roubaix, Tour of Flanders, and Giro di Lombardía during his heyday two decades ago, shocked the cycling world when he told La Gazzetta dello Sport last month he intended to return to the WorldTour with the goal of racing Roubaix. Tafi said he continues to train like a pro and produces solid numbers during gran fondos and other long-distance rides.

Tafi said he believes Roubaix is the kind of race where experience and technique would allow him to stay even with riders half his age.

Nicknamed the “Gladiator,” Tafi was part of the Mapei super-team in the late 1990s and was among the top stars of the Italian generation that dominated the northern classics in the 1990s. Tafi was also among 18 riders who tested positive for EPO during the 1998 Tour de France in retroactive controls carried out in 2004.

Tafi said he rides up to 18,000 kilometers per year and still fits into his racing jersey he wore 20 years ago.

“I don’t want this to be a circus,” he La Gazzetta. “If I would do this, I would dedicate myself 110 percent. The idea is to race Roubaix. I would do everything to the minute detail. I don’t want to look ridiculous in front of the whole world. Patience, calm, serene — but let me dream. Let me taste this impossible mission.”

It remains to be seen which team might actually pick him up. It’s highly unlikely a WorldTour team with serious classics ambitions would offer up a temporary deal. Quick-Step Floors manager Patrick Lefevere, who was Tafi’s boss during the Mapei era, told Cyclingnews that he rejected an entreaty from Tafi for 2019. Tafi’s experience might come in handy to a younger rider, but there are plenty of contemporary veterans still active who could bring race savvy to the table.

It’s possible a second-tier team might take up Tafi, but that would mean his fate would depend on that team receiving a wild-card invitation. It remains to be seen if ASO would seriously consider what many might view as little more than a publicity stunt.