Italian Andrea Tafi has taken another step toward fulfilling his goal of competing in Paris-Roubaix 20 years after his victory there in 1999. The 52-year-old said this week that he has signed with a team that could gain entry into the French spring Monument.
Tafi told Het Laaste Nieuws he was not yet able to name which team he had signed with, but the announcement should follow in the coming weeks.
Tafi went public with his plan last month and initially approached Patrick Lefevere, general manger of the Quick-Step Floors team where Tafi rode during the most successful part of his career, about a ride for the 2019 season. Lefevere encouraged Tafi's idea, which he called "beautiful," but he didn't offer the Italian a spot on his team. Tafi now says he found a team that offered him the opportunity.
"But I still cannot say which team it is," Tafi said, according to Het Laatste Nieuws. "Everyone says I'm crazy, but I do not think I am in my heart. I know how hard it is, I'm training and I'm going to see what's going to happen. It will be difficult, but it's something I absolutely want to do - it's something no one has ever done in cycling history."
Tafi retired after the 2005 Paris-Roubaix having notched 30 career victories, including the Tour of Flanders, Il Lombardia and Paris-Roubaix. He still competes in masters events in Tuscany, and he said he's looking for a unique way to turn back the clock and celebrate the 20th anniversary of his Paris-Roubaix win.
Tafi runs a cycling clothing business and a holiday rental business 'Il Borghetto' with apartments named after the races he won. It leaves him with time to train and take his 20th anniversary celebrations seriously. He has ridden a number of masters races and gran fondos this year, even taking part in a UCI-sanctioned road race in Hungary in July.
He has already contacted the UCI about being added to the anti-doping control pool of elite athletes and Biological Passport for the minimum six-months needed. Tafi said previously that he had reached out to several Pro Continental teams that are likely to secure wildcard invitations to Paris-Roubaix in 2019.
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.