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Tafi hoping to return to Paris-Roubaix at 52

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Mapei sweep the 1999 Paris-Roubaix podium with Andrea Tafi taking the victory

Mapei sweep the 1999 Paris-Roubaix podium with Andrea Tafi taking the victory
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Andrea Tafi leads George Hincapie through the Arenberg Forest in 2000

Andrea Tafi leads George Hincapie through the Arenberg Forest in 2000
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Andrea Tafi wins the 1999 Paris-Roubaix

Andrea Tafi wins the 1999 Paris-Roubaix
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Andrea Tafi wins the 1999 Paris-Roubaix

Andrea Tafi wins the 1999 Paris-Roubaix
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Andrea Tafi (Mapei)

Andrea Tafi (Mapei)
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Andrea Tafi (Mapei) wins Tour of Flanders

Andrea Tafi (Mapei) wins Tour of Flanders
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Andrea Tafi (CSC)

Andrea Tafi (CSC)
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Andrea Tafi (CSC)

Andrea Tafi (CSC)
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Former winners, Andrea Tafi and Felice Gimondi with Aldo Moser

Former winners, Andrea Tafi and Felice Gimondi with Aldo Moser
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Johan Museeuw, Andrea Tafi and Peter Van Petegem made up the 2002 Tour of Flanders podium

Johan Museeuw, Andrea Tafi and Peter Van Petegem made up the 2002 Tour of Flanders podium
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Andrea Tafi (Mapei) climbs the Koppenberg in 2002.

Andrea Tafi (Mapei) climbs the Koppenberg in 2002.
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Ballerini (centre) celebrates Mapei's 1-2-3 in Paris-Roubaix in 1998 with teammates Andrea Tafi and Wilfried Peeters

Ballerini (centre) celebrates Mapei's 1-2-3 in Paris-Roubaix in 1998 with teammates Andrea Tafi and Wilfried Peeters
(Image credit: AFP)
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Andreaa Tafi holds up his special Paris-Roubaix jersey with pavé

Andreaa Tafi holds up his special Paris-Roubaix jersey with pavé
(Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)
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Italy's Andrea Tafi made a solo breakaway in 1999, winning the event ahead of Belgian pair Wilfried Peeters and Tom Steels.

Italy's Andrea Tafi made a solo breakaway in 1999, winning the event ahead of Belgian pair Wilfried Peeters and Tom Steels.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)

Andrea Tafi won Paris-Roubaix in 1999, and 20 years on, the Italian is working on a plan to make a comeback as a professional so he can ride the Hell of the North one more time.

Tafi is now 52 and races intensely in Masters events in Tuscany, and is looking for a special and unique way to turn back the clock and celebrate the 20th anniversary of his Paris-Roubaix victory. He retired in 2005, with that year's Paris-Roubaix the final race of his career that included 30 victories, including the Tour of Flanders, Il Lombardia and Paris-Roubaix. 

"I know it's a crazy idea but I want to race again with just one goal: ride Paris-Roubaix, 20 years after I won it. It could be an impossible dream to make true but I want to try…" Tafi told La Gazzetta dello Sport of his plans.

"I'm just as motivated as I was 20 years ago. I certainly don't want to become some kind of circus trick. I still ride about 18,000km a year and my weight is down to 79kg. My Italian national champion’s jersey from 1998 still fits me…

"I rode Paris-Roubaix thirteen times during my career. I won once, was second and third. I always managed to finish. I think I've got a PhD in what is a special race. I know cycling has changed a lot in 20 years and I know that riding Paris-Roubaix wouldn't be a walk in the park but I like a challenge. It'd be unique."

Tafi runs a cycling clothing business and 'Il Borghetto', a series of six short-let apartments in central Tuscany, where each one is named after one of his major Classics victories. That leaves him time to train and take his 20th anniversary celebrations very seriously. He has ridden a number of Masters races and Gran Fondo, even taking part in a UCI-sanctioned road race in Hungary in July.

He has already contacted the UCI so he can be added to the anti-doping control pool of elite athletes and Biological Passport for the minimum six-months needed. He has also reached out to several Professional Continental teams who are likely to secure a wild card invitation to Paris-Roubaix in 2019.

"I know what I'd be up against. I hope I wouldn't look stupid but there's not much I can do if I do. I'm just asking to be given a chance, to live out my dream, to go for what seems like a mission impossible," Tafi pleaded.

"I've already contacted the UCI. I've made a request and everything should be OK.

"I've had contact with teams in Italy and in Belgium, teams not in the WorldTour. There are seven wild card invitations given for Paris-Roubaix. There's nothing concrete for now but some people weren't against the idea. I still need to call (race director) Christian Prudhomme but I know that he knows…"