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2005 Season News and Race Updates

Photo courtesy of Cor Vos

Andrea Tafi makes 2008 team management debut

By Gregor Brown of cyclingnews.com

Andrea Tafi – winner of the 2002 Ronde van Vlaanderen and 1999 Paris-Roubaix– is making his debut as a team manager this year with GS Mastromarco. The Italian from Lamporecchio (Toscana)retired from racing in 2005, but he will pursue his cycling interests with the under 23 and amateur team, which is currently training in Sicily.

"I am approaching this new experience with my feet on the ground and with humility," said 'The Gladiator' of the new collaboration.

He pointed out the team's link to the Italian company Mapei, which sponsored the professional team for which he raced from 1994 to 2002, and which will appear as Mapecrete on the team's kits. "On our jerseys is a brand name of historical importance, one that has always left his mark in cycling. It will be up to all of the athletes and staff to give them the honour they merit. All of us together will try to show the image of clean cycling where the results are achieved exclusively from love and self sacrifice in this spectacular sport."

The team organized by President Malucchi Bruno is currently in Siracusa (Sicily) for a training camp that is scheduled to end on January 19. The riders are enjoying the warmer weather while trying out some of their new material, such as bicycles from Scott.

The riders will make their season debut with the Firenze-Empoli, February 23.

 

May 16

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On Saturday evening at an elegant Tuscan villa high in the hills above Lamporecchio, Andrea Tafi said good bye to his career as a pro cyclist. Hundreds of friends and fans gathered at Villa Rospigliosi for "TifoTafi Forever", a unique talk-show style format party conceived by Italian PR maestro Gabriele Sola and hosted by RAI Sport TV broadcaster Alessandra Di Stefano.

To honor Tafi, one of the most popular Italian riders in recent memory were a host of "i big" of cycling, including: UCI prexy Hein Verbruggen; Tafi's Tuscan neighbor, former Mapei team-mate and current technical director for the Italian pro federation Franco Ballerini; newly elected Italian federation president Di Rocco; two-time world champion Gianni Bugno; RAI Sport TV's Davide Cassani; and former pros like Roberto Conti, Saunier Duval-Prodir manager Mauro Gianetti, Tafi's last boss.

Legendary Tuscan sprinter of the 1950s, Lorenzo Petrucci, was also present and Tafi's longtime DS Fabrizio "Mayday" Fabbri was there as well as former Giro boss Avv. Carmine Castellano. "I'm really honored by this evening... it's a great way to leave cycling as a rider, but I'm not going far," joked the ever-ebullient Tafi, who will open an agriturismo hotel dedicated to cyclists in Lamporecchio this summer.

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Born May 7, 1966 in Fucecchio, Italy, Tafi was a classic model of the rider the Italians call a "passista". In his prime, Andrea was a steamroller of a rider, a powerhouse pro, who could go incredibly hard on flat and rolling terrain and ride well on short climbs of 5-10km. He turned pro in 1989 and earned 30 wins in his pro career, but his last two seasons in 2003-4 at CSC and then Alessio were beset with injury and disappointment after his brilliant solo win at the Tour of Flanders in 2002 for Mapei.

Although Tafi didn't win often, he often won big, with monuments like Paris-Roubaix, Flanders, Paris-Tours, Giro di Lombardia and major races like Italian Pro Championship (1998), Giro del Lazio, Giro del Piemonte and Rochester World Cup (1997) among his palmares. Tafi was a rider of the "circolo popolo", a man for the common man, an incredibly generous rider who might have won more if he had been more selfish. But on his day, Andrea Tafi could ride any rider in the world off his wheel to win, or make one of his devastating counter-attacks like the one that propelled him to his last major win in Flanders three years ago.

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For his final half-season, a healthy Tafi had a respectable spring campaign for Saunier Duval-Prodir and rode his last race in Georgia last month. Tafi always enjoyed racing in America, where he made his pro debut in the 1989 Tour de Trump and won two stages of the long-defunct Tour of Americas in 1990. Tafi told Cyclingnews that he has especially fond memories of the 1998 USPRO Championships in Philadelphia, where a warm reception from his American tifosi provoked him to ride an especially aggressive race that June Sunday. "Please tell all my American tifosi thanks for everything," Tafi made a point of telling Cyclingnews at his TifoTafi Forever farewell.

Arrivederci Tafi! Grazie per tutto! Sei un grande!

(courtesy of cyclingnews.com)

April 25

Andrea's last appearance came at the Dodge Tour de Georgia and the US race was better for it.  Andrea attempted two big raids, one on stage 2 and the other on stage 6.  His race tactics earned him a spot on the final podium with the Most Aggressive Rider jersey and earned points in both the sprints and climber's competitions.  Like his jersey from Roubaix, Andrea donated his last jersey to the Georgia Cancer Coalition. It will be auctioned off on the Internet with all proceeds benefiting the Georgia Cancer Coalition.

Tafi said that he was very satisfied with his career. "I decided to come because it's a very good race for me, but I see it's also very hard. But I'm very happy. Today I tried to win.  This morning when I pulled on my jersey I looked into the mirror and I think of all my seasons as a professional."

"Inside me, the time for speaking [with my legs] has stopped. I'm very happy. I finished feeling good. I see I have many, many friends. For this, I am very happy."

(Tour de Georgia photos on Photos- 2005 Season page)

April 19

There was a special reason to go to the Paris-Roubaix race this spring as it was the setting for Andrea Tafi’s retirement after 17 seasons as a professional and a career that includes 5 World Cup wins, an Italian Championship and top ten UCI rankings.  I have been following Andrea’s career the last 12 years and wanted to celebrate his last race in person.

 

I ran into Andrea’s wife Gloria and his two children there.  They were all up to see his last race.  It was kind of full circle for them as this was the race that had defined Andrea’s career and they were here ion 1999 when he won it.  Tomasso had grown a lot since then and was now taller than his mother.

 

On race day, Andrea was making the rounds, seeing all his old friends and taking it all in.  His special pavé jersey was pretty cool and would be donated to UNICEF after the race.  But he had been suffering from chest congestion and had a bad night’s sleep the night before.  It became clear early on that he was not on a good day.  Every time I would see him riding at the back I knew his dream of animating the race on his last attempt was not to be.

  

As the group containing Andrea entered the velodrome the TV interviewers and photographers surrounded him on the infield, I unfurled my Italian flag emblazoned with his name that I have brought to many races.  Tafi waved goodbye to the crowd and was joined by his family. His young daughter Greta seemed heartbroken that Daddy hadn’t won but his wife and son were in good spirits, glad to see him getting the adoration of the fans in his final big day in the sun.

 

Soon it was time for the Andrea Tafi farewell event, sponsored by the Saunier Duval-Prodir team and the Roubaix Velo Club.  A full spread of different local specialities, cheese, charcuterie and the like kept the crowd happy and of course this is France, so the wine and champagne were flowing freely.  I met Virginie, the terrific press officer for Saunier and she set me up with posters, photo CDs, and worried about the UCI fine for the non-regulation jersey Andrea wore in the race.

  

Finally the crowd was drawn to attention as Jean-Marie Leblanc mounted the stage with legendary riders Bernard Hinault, Tafi’s boyhood idol Francesco Moser and Gilbert Duclos-Lasalle, a two-time winner of the Hell of the North.  There were some nice speeches by Mauro Gianetti, Saunier’s director, and the organizers of the Paris-Roubaix race who mentioned that Tafi was a great ambassador of the race that had given him so much.

 

Andrea gave nice thanks in French to the crowd and he received some gifts including a very nice pen and ink of him pounding out the power on the cobbles and a week’s vacation for the family from the team.  He hung around and signed every fan autograph that was requested and headed out into the evening with his family.  Virginie confirmed that Tafi would ride at the upcoming Tour of Georgia as a farewell appearance for his US based fans.

 

I spoke to Andrea about his upcoming cycling camp plans.  More to follow on that later.  For now it was ciao and grazie mille for a great career and the beautiful memories for all your fans.  Vai Tafone!

 

(See more photos on the Paris-Roubaix 2005 page)

 

April 4

So begins the last week!  Andrea was in the back at the Ronde, finishing 69th at 11:40.  Have to say he looked like he was keeping to himself and never really showed in this race.  Now it's off to Gent for Wenesday's Gent-Wevelgem, wearing bib #87 and then the date with fate at Roubaix on Sunday.  I am heading over tomorrow to see Andrea's last race- look for the Italian flag with TAFI along the course and at the velodrome .  It would be great to meet up with fellow Tafi fans one last time!  Then it's off to the big reception after the race put on by Saunier Duval-Prodir and the Velo Club Roubaix at the Press Center.  Let's hope Andrea goes out in style!

April 2

Andrea stretched the legs with 50km to go but it was not an attack that could stick.  Too bad he chose not ride to the finish and did not get an offical time.  The week after, despite some nice stages in Setimana Catalana, Andrea chose not to start the last stage, in preparation for Flanders 

March 16

Well it's on to Milano-San Remo, for many the real start to the season.  Andrea will wear #221 and I think, for the first time, will start to feel the end of his career coming on, as he makes a "farewell" tour of these last big races.  Andrea has raced La Primavera 12 out of the last 13 years (missing out only during the year at CSC) and his best finish is 36th in 1996.

March 14

Before stage 5, Andrea let his teammates know that he was going to go out on the attack early, which he did after only 2km of racing.  But it seems that this was the last day of racing as Andrea did not take the start at stage 6.  The plan is for him to rest up for the upcoming Milano-San Remo race on Saturday.

March 11

125 on today's stage 3 at T-A and now 117th on GC at 6:32

March 10

37th on the last stage and 63rd on final GC at Murcia and now Andrea is at Tirreno-Adriatico.  69th on stage 1 and even picked up a KOM point leading the peloton over the first climb.  89th at 1:22 for stage 2 and now 91st on GC.  30 days before the big showdown and Roubaix and Tafi is showing some good building form.

March 4

Well, it's 3 days in to the Tour of Murcia and Andrea continues to hone the form.  In stage one, with attacks, counter-attacks and the strong winds blowing out there breaking the bunch into three or more parts, Tafi makes the "breakaway of the day" at 75 km with Peter Wuyts of Mr.Bookmaker.com . The Gladiator and his brave mate from Belgium achieved a maximum lead of some four minutes.  But when the peloton really put the hammer down, efforts from Tafi and Wuyts were doomed to failure; the two guys were brought back into the bunch with 17 km. to go, on the outskirts of Molina de Segura

Stage 1- 38th at s/t, Stage 2 TT- 109th at 3:53, Stage 3- 41st and now 93rd on GC at 3:51

February 26

35th on the final stage and 60th on final GC at the Valenciana race, another good week of race training for Andrea.  Wonder if he was missing all the cobbled hardman stuff going on at Het Volk today?

February 25

An "easy" day for Andrea as he cruised in 20 minutes down on the fourth stage in 54th place on a day that saw 37 riders abandon, including 3 of Andrea's Saunier teammates.  He now stands at 60th on GC at 31:44.

February 24

59th and in the big group at 3:45 on today's stage and now 67th at 11:44 on GC at Valenciana.  Daily Peloton writer Magpie Latham meets up with Andrea at the race.  You can read her story at http://www.dailypeloton.com/displayarticle.asp?pk=7615

Here's another super piece by Philippe Van Holle at Le Derniere Heure from February 10. (thanks to Tafi fan Andy in Ireland for spotting this!): 

At 39 years, Tuscan starts his last season and has his head full of projects!
 

Andrea Tafi is certainly one of the most gracious riders in the group. Always available, always smiling, the Tuscan exerts his trade with happiness and pleasure. At 39 years, it’s here where he starts his last campaign, which would have even if to complete in Roubaix, although it of either not so sure... "Normally, it is envisaged indeed that I put a final point at my career at the end of the race which represented the most for me, as a professional rider", explained Andrea, recently at the Tour of Qatar, while yielding to the wishes of the many photographers and posing with a superb falcon (being used here for hunting). "However, if I were really flying along,  it is not unthinkable that I would finish the season, but that is not the deal which I have with Saunier Duval."

 

The Italian will try thus, more than ever, not to miss what should be his last go with the Hell of North:  "I already am very concentrated on this race, of which I will ride the new course on the 11th and 12th of February. Without the trench of Arenberg, it will be different!  Andrea Neri, the mechanic who has worked with me since the  Mapei days (and who lives just 5km from me at home) is occupied, since a few months ago, to finish a completely special machine. He is into this race as much as me, it is even him who pushes me to get ready for this test. I hope in any case that I will be saved from the physical troubles which overpowered me these three last years and which prevented me from being as powerful as I would have liked on these famous paving stones."

 

“I am more powerful when the roads are dry" In Qatar, in any case, Andrea was shown on several occasions, while trying to escape within small groups, taking impressive relays of power, as he is at his best. Is the power, is that the secret to win Paris-Roubaix? "It is a part of the secret", concedes our interlocutor, his eyes crinlikn as he smiles. "For this reason,  I really  like it when the roads of Paris-Roubaix are dry. The force, the power passes better in the wheels. On wet roads, I lose traction, and thus my effectiveness. But for everyone, to win on the velodrome, it is necessary to like this race, to deal with the crashes and falls on the paving stones, to accept the punctures and, each time, to set out again with the knife between the teeth, because, when one has the legs, nothing is impossible in Paris-Roubaix. It is always necessary to believe in the victory."

 

“I want to accommodate the touring cyclists at home " Soon thus, Andrea Tafi will turn the page. From Roubaix, then,  he will have nothing any more but its memories, and the famous paving stone which he accepted while being first in 1999 (after having been 2nd the previous year, behind Ballerini, and 3rd into 96, when Museeuw had been first in front of Bortolami at the time of the great a Mapei podium sweep). He has a cobble made into the frontage of his house, at his place, in Italy. Our man, however, has resourcefulness. He thus repurchased a building, in which he is making arrangements for  8 residences (with swimming pool and all comfort that one expects from a holiday place). "I want to accommodate cyclists, those impassioned by the bicycle and to transmit a little of my knowledge to them. All that in my village of origin, close to Vinci. The Giro comes there this year and I hope that the complex will be opened on this date!"

 

Tafi still has another project which is close to his heart and which would enable him to remain in the medium of the bicycle: "Nothing is still done obviously, but I would like to manage a team. And not just any team, I want a large team, with an important sponsor.  I have already worked three years on this project, which, little by little, is coming together. I have advanced contacts, with friends, and also with the financial contacts. I have a  really good hope to succeed in this way. It is not easy, obviously, because cycling was strongly shaken by the businesses of doping which one knows. Confidence should be restored.  Many potential investors are still hesitant. But there too, I think that the medium is cleansing itself."  We wish that Andrea succeeds in his company, so that we  will be able to thus keep the contact with this true gentleman of cycling..."

February 22

First stage at the Tour of Valenciana and Andrea finishes 61st at 11:16 with his teammate Zaballa leading the race.

February 18

On Tuesday, a perfect springlike day on the Italian Riviera, Andrea finished the 42nd Trofeo Laigueglia, the Italian season opener, in 88th place, 9:00 behind the winner.

February 14

While SD-P rides the spring tune up races, Andrea is already working on his approach to the culmination of his swansong season- namely, Paris Roubaix.   procycling.com  translated parts of an article by PHILIPPE VAN HOLLE in Belgian's Le Derniere Heure.  Over steak-frites in his favorite hotel in Kortrijk, the Park which serves as his Northern headquarters, he named his early favorites- Van Petegem, Boonen, Backstedt and perhaps Pieri.

Having recently announced that he will end his illustrious career at Paris-Roubaix in April, Andrea Tafi began the first stage of his build-up to his final event with a five-hour reconaissance of the course last Friday. Now riding for the Spanish Saunier Duval team, the Italian was accompanied by three team-mates and a considerable back-up team.  

But the main purpose of the trip was to test out a new 7kg all-carbon Scott bike that Tafi is hoping will give him an important edge in Paris-Roubaix. "When the bikes have been cleaned we will inspect the frame in close detail to see if there are any minute cracks in the material," Tafi told La Dernière Heure.

"If there are any problems we will know well in advance and will be able to rectify them, perhaps by adding another half kilo of carbon to strengthen the frame," Tafi explained. "It seems initially that all is OK as we’ve tested them in the worst possible conditions. The idea is that when we come back here in April we will only have to worry about our heads and legs. And, believe me, that makes an enormous difference."

Tafi joined the recent condemnation of Roubaix organisers ASO’s decision to remove the Arenberg forest section of pavé from this year’s route for safety reasons, saying that it removes some of the flavour of the race. However, at the insistence of Tafi’s three team-mates (Ventoso, Quinziato and Ravaioli) , the Saunier group rode the infamous Arenberg section.
 "My young team-members had asked me to pass there, because they had never seen it closely, so to approach at least a part of the dream."

February 4

Andrea finishes the last Tour of Qatar stage in 41st and gets a good early season result at 23rd on final GC. SD-P gets 6th on Team GC.

February 3

Well the day has come that those in the Io Tifo Tafi club have known would come some day, but now it's official.  Reuters is reporting that Andrea will end his career at the Roubaix velodrome on April 10th, just a month before his 39th birthday.  His dream is "to shine one last time in the Hell of the North".  I plan on being there to mark the occasion.

At the Tour of Qatar, Tafi finishes 34th on the stage and moves up to 23rd on GC at 36:00.

February 2

Third stage and it's a day off for most of the peloton as over 100 riders come in 32 minutes down from the winning time after 194km.  Tafi was 81st at 32:00 and now is 36th on GC at 36:00

February 1

30th place at 3:46 back on the second stage at Qatar and now 30th on GC at 4:06.  Saunier is 7th place on team classification.

January 31

47th in the same time as the winner in today's opening stage of the Tour of Qatar

January 29

The 2005 season is underway!  Opening his account on the new season, Tafone gets in the action in his first race with his new Saunier team.  He was in a 5 man break at the GP Doha International in Qatar.  This race is a tune up event two days before the Tour of Qatar.  You can follow Andrea and the Saunier boys and all the the Tour action at http://www.letour.com/stf/quatar/2005/us/infos.html

January 28

A great interview with Andrea with the guys at Pez Cycling can be found here at http://www.pezcyclingnews.com/?pg=fullstory&id=2859

The link times out a lot so here's the text, but do visit their link for the whole Nathan Deibert interview.

Pez: Are you happy so far with your new team and teammates?

Andrea: Yes, this is a very close team with a strong desire to win. The young riders want to learn as fast as possible and it is very important to have this motivation. Mauro and Matxin have put together a very good team although many don’t think it is that good. I think it will be a good team.

Pez: I’ve seen recently that you are talking about hanging up your bike after Paris-Roubaix. How did you arrive at this decision?

Andrea: Well, as they say, “In the morning the sun comes up and later at night it goes down”. I’ve been a pro since ‘89. I thought about it like this, if 2004 is a good year then that would be it, but it was a bad year and I didn’t have the opportunity to do a good Paris-Roubaix. I had a muscular problem [points to his buttocks] and because of that, I couldn’t do a good race, as I wanted to. So, I told myself if I have the motivation to do a good race [Paris-Roubaix], and a good team that believes in my chances then I’ll give it one more try. After that then I can decide to stop or not. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, for me to finish my career winning this race is maximum any racer can achieve. Afterwards, the possibility of going to the Tour of Georgia is because I’m thinking of our sponsors, for example Scott USA, who wants to do a lot in cycling and this would be very good publicity for them. Let’s hope it all works out this way.

Pez: So, you’re happy here and you like the Scott USA bike, but why Saunier Duval – Prodir? With all the teams out there, why are you here. I would have guessed you’d want to finish your career in an Italian team.

Andrea: Many people have said this to me but I think that most of the Italian teams don’t believe in my motivation and my capacity and this hurts me. However, when I spoke with Mauro Gianetti and Algeri [Italian DS at SD-Prodir] they told me that they liked me and that they believed in me. After that, I spoke with a smaller team but here I have a guaranteed chance to do Paris-Roubaix [thanks to the ProTour]. I told them the first time we talked that I want to be in your team if you want me and think I have a chance of doing a good Paris-Roubaix. I also think of helping the team by sharing my experience with the younger riders. I am at their disposition to share my experience and do it with much desire.

Pez: During your time with Mapei you won a lot of races. Do you think that the changes you made during the last two years have affected your results?

Andrea: No. The years with Mapei [9 years] were fantastic. It was a team with a sponsor that loved cycling. It was a big team but a team where everyone could win. Later I went to CSC but they had a different mentality. At Mapei, a day didn’t go by that someone from the team didn’t call me to see how I was doing. This is very important because it gives you a greater sense of responsibility toward the team. At CSC, the idea was that you are a professional and you can do whatever you want. When I had a problem, I thought someone from the team would call me to talk but that never happened. I felt a little lost, I didn’t know what to do and last year was more of the same. I think that here this will not happen. Before coming to this camp, we were together in December in Santander [northern Spain] talking to the team directors. Then about 6 or 7 of us from the team went to the UCI track in Switzerland. We rode many laps of the track getting to know each other and watching to see how we could get better. After that, I could see in Algeri a true desire to do well this season and that feeling caught on with us. This is very important and I called him the next day to thank him and tell him that they had helped give me back my desire and motivation that I lost in the last two years.

Pez: Of all your victories, which is the best and why?

Andrea: Roubaix is the victory that I dreamed about as a child. Watching TV and seeing Francisco Moser win the race I thought that someday I could be there and win it. Win the “maximum”, and to arrive at the track in Roubaix with the same jersey that Moser had, the champion of Italy, was such a strong emotional feeling. However my other victories are very important too, each of which has its own story.

Pez: The Tour of Flanders in 2002? I can see the finish in my head as we speak. Note: Tafi won solo from his break companions Museeuw, Hincapie, Nardello, and van Petegem, after hammering them with repeated attacks in the last 20km.

Andrea: The tactics in Flanders were the best. At first, I didn’t think I would win the race, not even that morning because we had Bartoli, Bettini, and others. However, later in the race little by little I was gaining confidence. Then the director spoke to me with about 30km to go. He asked me how I was. I said I was still feeling good, even though I had been following his orders to work for the others during the race. So he said, “If you’re feeling good, attack.” I said, “Are you sure? If I attack, I’m going to win.” It was an incredible experience. It was the first time I attacked and did not look back. When I saw the 2km banner I turned my head to look back because in the car behind me was Eddy Merckx and he said, “Tafone, you’ve won!”

Pez: Speaking of that race, you attacked and returned to the group, then attacked again and returned and finally attacked and got away. I’d like to know if you think that this attitude of continuing to attack until you get what you want has more or less helped you to continue in professional cycling for the last 18 years, and what will be through your 39th birthday…

Andrea: I think this is the base of my strength. All the races I’ve won, I’ve won like that, carrying my adversaries until they can’t go any more. If I’m in a group of 15 that is difficult and so if, I’m feeling good I’ll attack. Maybe I go once, then a second time, a third time, if I’m feeling good again and again until I get it. That is the key to everything for me.

It's clear Andrea aims to focus his season on Paris-Roubaix, he has some "read between the lines" comments about his days at CSC and the lack of interest in him for this season from Italian teams.

January 13

At the Saunier Duval-Prodir team presentation, Andrea Tafi says that the training for professional cycling continues to motivate him, thanks "to the daily encounters with nature and the conversations I get to have with my fans that I meet along the roads".

December 23

The first team-meeting of the Saunier Duval team was held from Dec. 14-27 in the Hotel Camino Real in Selores/Cabuérniga (Cantabria) . The riders gathered to meet their new teammates, to undergo medical check-ups, to get fitted for their new  Scott bikes and the new team kit.

November 30

It's official- Andrea has signed on for one more season and will retire after a final ride in Paris-Roubaix, the race that has kind of defined his career. 

Tafi has signed a contract with Saunier Duval-Prodir for the first half of the 2005 season.  "I want to come back from all my bad luck", explained Andrea, who has had a series of back and knee injuries over the past two seasons. "I'm really happy about the opportunity to race next season. I thought about it a long time and I realized I could still ride well."

"I've been lucky in life but the last two seasons have not been good.. .but now I'm over my injuries, " continued Tafi. "I'm 100 percent and I want to be ready for Flanders and Roubaix next season. After that, we'll see how it goes but I don't want to leave cycling before taking another shot."

Tafi's engagement with Saunier Duval began at Lombardia, when he spoke to team manager Mauro Gianetti about a possible ride  "We decided to work with Tafi for two reasons; one is that he's one of the most serious, professional riders in the sport and he can be an excellent example for not only our young riders, but all of our riders."

Gianetti also pointed out that, "We also think that Tafi can win again - both Flanders and Roubaix are races he can win. Duclos Lassalle won Roubaix when he was older than Tafi. Maybe he isn't as strong as he once was, but in races like those, you need a lot of experience and Tafi has that, as well as talent."  Tafi will join his new Saunier Duval-Prodir teammates at an initial training camp in mid-December in Santander, Spain.

(thanks to cyclingnews.com)