Andrea Tafi wants to return to race Paris-Roubaix at 52 years old, 20 years after winning the race in 1999. He is contacting teams to make it happen in 2019.
Tafi won the French cobbled Monument in 1999 as Italian champion, then 32 years old, with Team Mapei. The Tuscan retired in 2005, but remains in form.
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“It’s an impossible dream to return 20 years after winning? Maybe, but I want to try it,” Tafi told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I raced Roubaix 13 times, I placed first, second and third. I always finished. I think I’ve earned a master’s degree in this amazing race.
“In 20 years, cycling changed a lot. I’d like to do it again with all the new technology and knowledge. I’m a man of challenges, and so why stop myself?”
Tafi said that he will race the amateur event if he does not find a team to sign him. The entire experience he intends to have documented on social media and made into a documentary film.
“I had some contacts [for teams] in Italy and Belgium, not WorldTour, but no one yet gave a concrete ‘OK, let’s do it.’ But the idea wasn’t laughed off,” Tafi said.
“I still have the same thoughts and drive as 20 years ago, I’m not doing this just for show. I will give 110 per cent. I’m not afraid to pull out right away… but I don’t think that will be the priority. I still ride 18,000 to 19,000km a year and I’m 79 or 80kg.”
Tafi raced an event in Hungary this summer that got him thinking of returning. Someone suggested to him then, “Why don’t you race Roubaix again?” He is not sure how he would fit into a team’s 2019 race programme.
“I don’t have to race the entire season, the project is to race Roubaix,” Tafi added.
“I’ll do everything. I hope I don’t think I’ll make a joke out of it. Let’ me dream. Let me have this mission impossible.”
Australian Mathew Hayman (Mitchelton-Scott) won the race in 2016 at 37 years old. The oldest winner is Frenchman Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle, who won twice, the second time in 1993 at 38 years old. No one ever retired and returned 20 years later to race, let alone win.