The Italian, who raced from 1988 to 2005, told La Gazzetta dello Sport he’s considering a comeback in order to race the Hell of the North on the 20th anniversary of his 1999 victory.
“This crazy idea came to me; to come back and race Paris-Roubaix again,” Tafi told the Italian sports daily. “Twenty years after winning it. An impossible dream? Maybe, but I want to try.”
Tafi raced Roubaix 13 times, winning once and notching two other podiums. After retiring in 2005, Tafi opened a cycling tour lodge in his native Tuscany.
With his age well into the master’s category, Tafi wants to defy convention and try to convince a cycling team to hire him on. Would a WorldTour team or one of the invited squads want to risk one of their precious seven starting spots to a rider who hasn’t raced in nearly 15 years?
“I have to find someone to hire me,” Tafi said. “I cannot, then maybe we can ride the ‘gran fondo’ amateur event. I raced this summer in some events surrounded by young people and I was holding the pace. Someone said, ‘Why don’t you return to race Roubaix?’”
Tafi said he’s been in contact with second-tier teams but has not reached out to WorldTour-level teams. He also confirmed he’s been in contact with the UCI about reactivating his license and being available for anti-doping controls required six months before a return to competition.
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 18,000km per year and still fits into his racing jersey he wore 20 years ago.
“I don’t want this to be a circus,” he said. “If I would do this, I would dedicate myself 110 percent. The idea 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.”