Paolo Bettini is discouraging his former Mapei team-mate Andrea Tafi, now 52, from racing the 2019 Paris-Roubaix 14 years after retirement.
Bettini raced for Mapei and won Monuments Milan-San Remo, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia. At 44, 10 years after retirement, he says he has no plans on trying to return like fellow Italian Tafi.
“To Andrea I say, I hope you don’t race, you need to do something else in your life at 52 years old,” Bettini told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“He’s gaining media attention with this, but it’d be better to think about leaving the place open to a younger rider. Doing it this way, he’s stealing someone’s spot.”
Tafi announced in October that he is in the UCI anti-doping testing pool so that he is free to sign a deal to race for a team on April 14.
He conquered the cobbled roads in northern France to win in 1999. His last participation, 14 years ago, he placed 42nd racing for Team Saunier Duval.
“In 20 years, cycling changed a lot,” Tafi said in October. “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?”
He is reportedly linked to a team already that could field him just for Paris-Roubaix, and perhaps some lead-up races. Some have connected him to Team Dimension Data with Mark Cavendish.
The SNAI bookmaker in Italy already launched special odds for Tafi in the Roubaix velodrome. It has him at 350/1 for the win, 150/1 for a podium finish and 50/1 for a top-10 finish.
“I did a test the other day, producing a peak of 375 watts at a 166 heart rate,” Bettini continued.
“I’m an ambassador for different companies and I have fun riding with their clients. I ride when I want, no way am I going to go out three times a week.”
Bettini directed the national team after Franco Ballerini died. After three and a half years, he stepped aside to manage a new team Formula One star Fernando Alonso was starting. That project never left the grid, leaving Bettini out of top level cycling.
“Even if I had a sponsor to give 30 million, what certainties could this sport give me with these rules?” Bettini said.
“But then that team is racing the same races that another team is doing with a sponsor that is only putting in two [million]. How do I explain that to them?
“There are races were all these categories are mixed, from WorldTour to Continental, where the world champion Alejandro Valverde is racing with my nephew Francesco. It shouldn’t be these way.”
Any team looking to take Tafi to Paris-Roubaix could announce his participation in the coming months as training camps commence. No team, neither WorldTour teams with guaranteed participations nor the potential wildcard Professional Continental teams, has officially welcomed him.