I don’t think anyone could be said to be following this story about Andrea Tafi wanting to ride Roubaix. If you’re really keeping up to date with it, you truly have my condolences because it is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard in relation to cycling in my lifetime. I’m in favour of retiring at the top of your game. Contador retired too late, for example, while Bernard Hinault has my great and undiminished respect for retiring when he did. But Andrea Tafi...what the fuck is this shit?
For those of you who don’t know, the background to that exasperated first paragraph is that former Mapei rider and winner of three monument classics has got it into his head to return to Paris-Roubaix and have another go. At the age of fifty-two. Fourteen years after retiring. Seventeen years after his most recent professional victory. When Andrea Tafi won his last race, Tom Boonen was a neo-pro. The idea of him racing competitively is completely preposterous. The only thing that - and these air-quotes must be extremely strongly emphasised - ‘inspires’ me to actually write anything about it is the fact that on looking through Twitter this morning I saw him spouting on about having found a team. Now there are two options here:
- A team — an actual professional cycling team with a budget to keep to and an image to uphold have signed Andrea Tafi to race what is arguably the toughest classic on the circuit in 2019
- Andrea Tafi is lying.
Let’s try to believe 2 and think up all the reasons why he could be lying.
- Andrea Tafi is trying to promote his company’s new anti-aging serum.
- Andrea Tafi is fucking with us to see what we’ll believe.
- Andrea Tafi is a Terminator sent from the future that’s being tested to see if he’s gone out of date.
- Andrea Tafi just wants to go to Roubaix in April next year and this is a complicated plan to get free transport in the back of a team car. This is the most relatable option, but the least believable, given that nobody has ever gone to Roubaix for pleasure.
- Andrea Tafi has let a bet get out of hand.
Tempting as all of those are, currently the best information available to us is that a pro team wants Andrea Tafi to ride for them in at least one race next year. What is incentivising them to do so is far harder to discern. The most sensible idea is that the team in question is Movistar or, like, Cofidis who have no real interest in or chance of winning the race. Cofidis, by the way, would really fit the bill, as Tafi said his team was a “really big” one, as Cofidis still are in his memory that’s probably failing by this stage. But even if that is true, he still convinced a cycling team that they would be better off having their company logo on his back than on the back of a different rider. That is utterly ridiculous for a myriad of reasons.
To begin with, Andrea Tafi’s past of far from squeaky clean. EPO showed up in a sample of his taken in 1998 and tested in 2004. This claim is backed up by the French Senate, that time they tearfully went after Jalabert inter alia. He also finished his career at Saunier-Duval, that stable that only hosted the likes of Riccardo Ricco, Leonardo Piepoli, Isidro Nozal, David Millar and Iban Mayo. So the optics aren’t great. Now, it was a different time, I understand that, but digging it up to rifle through its pockets doesn’t strike me as the best way of dealing with it.
Secondly, and this will be my final point because it’s the most important one, Andrea Tafi can’t win Paris-Roubaix. He just can’t. He’s fifty-two. Peter Sagan is twenty-eight and blessed with miles more talent than Tafi is, allied with years of sports science that simply wasn’t available to Tafi. Cyclists (paniagua) now are objectively better than cyclists even in the nineties. The same goes for all sports. Years of individualised workout routines and detailed training plans mean that athletes are just physically better than ever before. Even if the thirty-two year-old Tafi could be transported to the startline in Compiègne next year, he wouldn’t stand a chance. He says he’s going to train hard, like the other two hundred professional cyclists on the startline aren’t going to. He says he has greater knowledge of the race than the others. That may be true. But our own Chris Fontecchio has literally written the book on the cobbled classics and I don’t see him scoring any VDS points. That’s all, this is nonsense, I apologise for making you think about it long enough to read this article.