Paolo says it’s thievery
Based on the court of cycling opinion, few people think 52 year old Andrea Tafi should attempt to race in Paris-Roubaix. Tafi won Paris-Roubaix in 1999 and the Tour of Flanders in 2002 but that is ancient history.
People like retired World Champion Paolo Bettini and Quickstep manager Patrick Lefevere think it’s just a really bad idea. “I hope you don’t ride, you need to do other things in life at 52 years of age,'” said Bettini. Meanwhile Lefevere questioned Tafi’s sanity — “We all were asking Andrea if he had a fever or something or if he had become crazy. I don’t understand it,” Lefevere told Cyclingnews.
Nevertheless, Tafi is ploughing ahead with his plans, insisting he’s already found a team to get him into the race. (Still waiting to discover what team is willing to play enabler.) As if that spectacle isn’t enough, there seems to be a documentary in the works that would chronicle his outlandish stunt. This is daffy Tafi.
There has already been plenty of criticism that Tafi is bringing a circus element to Paris-Roubaix, disrespecting the race and stealing media attention away from the riders who merit it. The Hell of the North is many things but not a clown show, a vanity project or cycling fantasy camp.
None of those critiques have put a dent in Tafi’s enthusiasm for tackling Paris-Roubaix thirteen years into his retirement. “Some people said to me, ‘Andrea, I like to remember you when you win 20 years ago and I don’t want to see how you are now,’” he said. “But I want to do that — I want to see what my limits are at this age.”
What a 52 year old’s physical limits are is certainly an interesting question on a purely sports physiology level. But that brings us back another quote from Paolo Bettini. “It would be a lot better if he thought about giving an opportunity to a young rider. By doing this, he is robbing somebody’s place.”
Yes, Paris-Roubaix is about testing the limits of this generation’s best classics riders. Should a young rider have his opportunity stolen away so Tafi can turn the race into a personal side-show?