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Riders shoot down aging Andrea Tafi’s Roubaix plan

The 52-year-old is searching for a team that will sign him so he can race Paris-Roubaix in April.

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Andrea Tafi insists that he will try to race the 2019 Paris-Roubaix April 14, a move top stars are recommending against.

The Italian, now 52, told VeloNews last week that he is “training hard” and “doing all he needs to do” to race the famous cobbled French race on April 14. It would mark 20 years since he won in 1999 and 14 years since his 2005 retirement.

“I do not think it is a successful plan, and if I were Tafi, I would contribute to cycling in a different way,” cyclocross star Sven Nys told Sporza.

“I think that Tafi underestimates the pace in the current peloton. He probably has a big motor because of the many training sessions, but he has lost his explosive power. They just don’t go 45kph all the time, but sometimes at 60. This is just not going to work.”

“The sport has changed too much,” Jan Bakelants (Sunweb) said. “It is time to make room for the young riders. If I were Tafi, I would stay quiet at home in my impressive estate in Italy.”

In 13 Roubaix rides, Tafi won in 1999, placed third in 1996, and second in 1998. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), 24 years younger, won last year’s race.

“He could join the early escape with some luck and ride on camera,” added Bakelants, “but he certainly cannot participate to win.”

“At the age of [52], it is very difficult to be able to compete with this generation of riders,” said Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team). “I understand that he is still at a decent level, but he underestimates age.”

If it happens, Tafi wants to document the experience on social media and produce a film.

VeloNews spoke with several insiders who all said that Tafi’s plan has hit a roadblock. He needs a team to race. So far, none of the 18 WorldTour teams, who all have guaranteed starts in Paris-Roubaix, or the seven wildcard teams announced this week have shown interest in signing the 1990s star.

The problem for any team is that it cannot just sign Tafi for one event. Rather, it must offer him a contract for at least one season. That will cost around 30,000 to 35,000 euros, which would be a big investment just to see Tafi live out his dream.

“I don’t think so,” Tafi told VeloNews when asked if it is too late to sign a contract, given that the season has already started and teams have shown no interest in him. “I am going ahead, I don’t want to give up anything.”

One other issue not spoken about when Tafi announced his comeback plan is that he is suspected of using EPO in his career. In 2013, a retroactive testing program showed that he, American Bobby Julich, and others had the blood booster in their systems during the 1998 Tour de France.

“Andrea is also someone from my generation, we all know what happened there,” former Mapei teammate Johan Museeuw told Sporza.

“You don’t have to go ride with the new generation. That bothers me a little.”