Andrea Tafi may have moved a step closer to his dream of competing in next year's Paris-Roubaix but his former boss, Patrick Lefevere, is still baffled by the 52-year-old's desire to return to professional competition.
Last week Tafi announced that he had found a team that would indulge his fantasy of racing Paris-Roubaix twenty years after his win in the French Monument. Lefevere managed Tafi when the Italian won the race in 1999 and was approached by his former rider last month for a possible avenue back into the sport
"I saw him at a sponsor event last week as we were celebrating 20 years of sponsorship with Latexco. We all were asking Andrea if he had a fever or something or if he had become crazy. I don't understand it," Lefevere told Cyclingnews.
"He asked me, laughing, but half serious, if our team was interested but you know the composition of our team. It's already a fight to make the seven riders for Paris-Roubaix and I don't want to invest in a project just for publicity. I hope he can find another way."
Tafi retired in 2005 and started his pro racing career in the late 1980s. The riders who completed the 1999 Paris-Roubaix podium were none other than Wilfried Peeters and Tom Steels - both of whom now work as directors for Lefevere. When asked how far Tafi would last in one of the hardest one-day races in the world, Lefevere replied: "A 90-year-old could start Paris-Roubaix. I just don't know how long they would stay in the bunch. I have no clue how long Andrea would last."
According to Lefevere, the plan is for Tafi to document his return back into the professional ranks. Although a super-competitive and serious team such as Quick-Step have no room for a 52-year-old rider, Lefevere believes that a team lower down the ranks would perhaps profit from giving Tafi a shot.
"I think he's making a documentary about himself, and coming back at 52 to do his dream race. There's more behind this than just riding Paris-Roubaix. It's more of a commercial and business thing."
"There are some smaller teams, ones that are not specialized in Paris-Roubaix. So if they give him a ride then they'll have a lot of publicity. It's their choice but in my team, and in my case we wouldn't do it."
Tafi is set to announce his team for next year's race in the coming weeks. Paris-Roubaix wildcard teams in 2018 included Vérandas Willems-Crelan, Direct Energie, Cofidis, Fortuneo-Samsic, Delko Marseille Provence KTM, Vital Concept and WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic.