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2004 Season News

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2004 Season News and Race Updates

October 25

After what seemed like an eternity, Tafone finally turns the pedals in the fall classics.  At the October 10 Paris-Tours World Cup race, he finished 30 seconds back in 61st place.

In the mid-week, the Italian races leading up to the last World Cup race began.  At the October 13 Milano-Torino, Tafi stretched his legs.  After 70 km, Tafi attacked and quickly established a decent sized lead of 3'40 by km 78. The peloton didn't want to give him too much of an advantage, however, and had reduced the gap to 3'00 at the halfway point (km 100).  In front Tafi, slowed but was still 3'11 ahead of the peloton with 50 km to go, with the average speed now 45.9 km/h after three hours. The counter-attacks started within the peloton and the pace picked up for the finale. Tafi was caught with 30 km to go .  Andrea, spent from his long attack, finished 11 minutes back in 134th.

The next day, at the Giro del Pemonte, Tafi was once again near the front and finished 42nd, just 13 seconds back of the winner.  Although he participated in the last World Cup at Lombardy, Andrea was a DNF.

After what must be considered a disappointing season, it's still to be seen what will happen for next year.  A new team (Liquigas?), retirement?  Any news will be relayed here as it comes in.

August 20

Although he was on some start lists for the Zurich round of the World Cup, Andrea did not take the start.  He has really been laying low since the spring

May 3

Andrea participated by special invitation in former Mapei teammate Johan Museeuw's farewell criterium in Gistel yesterday. Thousands came out to say goodbye to the Belgian legend.  Johan did not disappoint his fans, winning the day.  Bedankt Johan- you are a great champion and will be missed. By the way, Tafi is once again sporting the goatee look of the late 2000 season.

Apr 21

Tafi-tifosi Albert Jan and Harry Kruiter from Leiden in the Netherlands have solved the Amstel Gold mystery. Andrea did take the start but abandoned after 150 km according to Dutch television.

The guys spoke with Andrea after the Paris-Roubaix race where he told them that he was "definitely coming back there to collect another cobble in 2005" and that he felt stronger after the race then the week before and looked forward to riding the Amstel Gold Race. He said he would discuss it with his team manager.

So, it looks like perhaps Amstel was not originally in the plans (hence the mixup in start lists), but since Andrea had good sensations after Roubaix he wanted to participate.

Apr 19

Well, who knows what's going on with this team!  Some sources listed Tafi for Amstel (including the Bianchi site, the official Amstel Gold site and cycling4all.  Cyclingnews.com had Moller listed instead.  Neither Moller or Tafi showed up on the official results so if anyone out there has any info, let me know and I will post the update.  Andrea is not listed on the team list for Liege, so I am guessing he is out for Fleche as well.

Apr 17

Andrea is listed on the Alessio team list for tomorrow's Amstel Gold World Cup race.  Tafi finished in 2nd place in 1997, behind Bjarne Riis, his former DS at CSC.

Apr 16

Andrea is on the guest list for an by-invitation-only criterium that will be held on May 2 to honor recently retired classics legend Johan Museeuw in Museeuw's hometown of Gistel, in Belgium.  Andrea shares a lot of history with his former Mapei teammate- victories in both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix and also the now infamous Mapei podium sweep in the 1996 Roubaix race, where Tafi and Gianluca Bortolami were forced to sit up and wait for Museeuw and had the race finish dictated by team orders.

Apr 12

A bittersweet day in Hell. Although his Alessio teammate Magnus Backstedt won the race, it could not have been that much comfort for Andrea, who finished his Paris-Roubaix in 43rd place, in a group of 32 riders that arrived at the velodrome 13:19 after the winner, his worst finish there since 1992. Tafi had a flat at a particularly inopportune time, just as the race was picking up speed entering the Arenberg Forest and he never could get back to the front of the peloton.

Apr 9

As expected, Andrea was a DNF at today's last stage of the Circuit de la Sarthe.  On the eve of Paris-Roubaix, Andrea spoke about the upcoming race and vows that this Sunday's edition will not be his last. After many years of trying, Tafi won the legendary classic in 1999 in a solo breakaway, but his preparation for this year's race has been hampered by a tooth abscess at the beginning of the season, combined with other more recent health problems.

"I'm good enough," he said in a Datasport interview. "At the end of last week I was sure I wouldn't participate. Now I've recovered a bit of condition thanks to three days in France where I did rather a lot of base work. Certainly I hope to be at the top but I am not there. I'm motivated to do well. To race a Roubaix also means that you have to have the motivation to do it." Tafi finished by saying that it would not be his last cobbled classic. "No. I'm sure of being able to dispute another," he said.  

For the bikes, Alessio will have Bianchi titanium frames with Carbon/Aluminium forks, mainly because the Aluminium is a bit stronger than full carbon. The forks have got a bit more sweep in them for better handling, more comfort and to reduce the vibration through the hands. Also, the forks are wider in the top to give more room for bigger tires. They'll be riding on the 24mm Vittoria CG tubulars with the green strip.  (courtesy cyclingnews.com)

Apr 8

Circuit de la Sarthe- 57th in stage 3 at :05 and 68th on GC at 2:30.  I would not be surprised if Andrea does not start tomorrow in order to rest or prepare for Paris-Roubaix on Sunday.  Andrea likes that Friday prep ride on the cobbles.  Here's hoping it all comes together on Easter Sunday. Vai Tafone! 

Apr 7

Circuit de la Sarthe Stage 2. Andrea finished 53rd in the same time as the leaders today and is 70th on GC at 2:30.  He continues to ride in preparation for Sunday

Apr 6

All change!  Gent-Wevelgem is out and the four-stage Circuit de la Sarthe is in. Andrea felt a little better at the finish than at the start. In stage one today, he finished 66th at 2:20.  He's still a question mark for this weekend's Paris-Roubaix because of the cyst he developed after Milan-San Remo. "I also had a flu and I don't like that at this time of the race", he said.  It just won't be right if Andrea doesn't make it to the start line in Compiegne on Sunday in what might be his last season.  Forza Tafone!

Apr 6

Andrea is on the start list for Wednesday's Gent-Wevelgem race, the traditional mid-week event between the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.  His best finish there is 20th back in 1998, but it's unlikely he'll ride for a win- he finished back in 76th place the year he won Roubaix in 1999.  Hopefully, Tafone can use the race to hone his condition for the weekend World Cup event.

Apr 2

Bad news!  It looks like Andrea will not be able to participate in the upcoming Tour of Flanders World Cup race, an event he won with a stunning late solo attack in 2002.  Although he tried to ride today, he is still bothered by a painful cyst that also caused a high fever, which also cancelled his participation in the recent E3 Harelbeke. Tafi, who keeps in touch by phone with Bruno Cenghialta, manager of the Alessio-Bianchi team, now hopes to take part in the race he won in 1999, the Paris-Roubaix, third trial of the World Cup, scheduled for April 11th.  Best wishes for a quick recovery Andrea, the Hell of the North awaits!

Mar 27

He was on the start list for today's E3 Harelbeke in Belgium, the traditional tuneup race for the cobbled classics, but it appears Andrea did not finish- at least he did not receive an official finish time.  More than half of the starters were DNF.  Not sure if this was planned or if there was a problem- more news when it comes in.

Mar 21

The first World Cup of the season is over.  Andrea finished the Milan San Remo classic in 159th place, 11:03 back of the leaders, in a group that included early protagonist Ludo Dierckxsens and Davide Rebellin.  Andrea stretched his legs a bit at the start of the race but was reeled in after a kilometer and later in the race with 55km to go, he pulled the bunch along the Via Aurelia.  On to Flanders in two weeks time!

Mar 18

Andrea returned to racing at Tirreno-Adriatico.  He had stage finishes of 91st, 64th, 122nd @11:19, 149th @10:35, 82nd @5:43, 112th @9:39 and 70th.  He finished 11th on GC @ 34:30 and 28th in the points competition.   In the fourth stage, Tafi made a move near the town of Quadri with Leblancher, Estonia's Janek Tombak and Saeco's Mirko Celestino. The others were caught, but Tafi wasn't and, living up to his well-known nickname ("The Gladiator"), the man from Fucecchio showed a great combative attitude and increased his lead over the bunch to a maximum of 02'55". With Rabobank driving the chase in the peloton, Tafi had his lead reduced to just 01'44" by the Bomba Intermediate Sprint (km. 123.9), and then put an end to Tafi's adventure with less than 3 km. to the first passage over the line at Paglieta.

It's safe to say that Andrea was just using the race for training as preparation for the upcoming northern classics campaign.  He is scheduled to ride La Primavera this Saturday and will wear bib number 28 for the Alessio-Bianchi squadra.  Andrea's best finish in San Remo was 36th in 1996.

Feb 13

Alessio teammate Scott Sunderland reports in his diary that Andrea has had to have a wisdom tooth removed and may miss racing until the Giro di Lucca on March 24.  That will leave Andrea a bit short of the racing miles he prefers before the classics.  So, it looks like the Tour du Haut Var is off the schedule.  Quick recovery, Andrea! 

Feb 11

Andrea will take part in the Tour of the Haut Var in southern France on Saturday, February 21, making his debut with his new Alessio team. He will wear dossard #171 over the 180 km race that features 3 climbs over rolling terrain around Draguinan.

Jan 26

The Alessio-Bianchi team was presented Friday in Milan, Italy at the famous Martini Terrace. Italian cycling legend Felice Gimondi was on hand, along with Giampiero Galeazzi, to introduce the team and it's sponsors. Bianchi takes over as co-sponsor and bicycle supplier.

"I have always been a great cycling fan, and ever since I was a little boy the Bianchi bicycles have attracted and fascinated me in a special way, for the reason that all the greatest cycling champions competed on Bianchi bikes," said team sponsor Celeste Alessio. "So, the possibility to see my name, my brother's name and the company name side by side with the great Bianchi logo was an exceptional opportunity."

Galeazzi and Gimondi presented returning riders and new recruits including il Gladiatore di Fucecchio, classics specialist Andrea Tafi, who returns to Italy after a year with the Danish Team CSC. Other team members present included Fabio Baldato, Pietro Caucchioli, Franco Pellizotti and Andrea Noé.

"I am deeply convinced that the new Alessio-Bianchi pairing will turn out to be a competitive and winning team," said longtime Bianchi associate Felice Gimondi. "One of the reasons for this is that [team manager] Bruno Cenghialta has done a great job in putting together a very strong group, signing up, among others, the champion Andrea Tafi, who will make it possible for the Alessio-Bianchi team to play a leading role in the northern classics."

The Division I team will aim for top performances in the classics and the three major grand tours. Leaders for the Giro d'Italia will be Pietro Caucchioli, Andrea Noé and Franco Pellizotti, targeting both high placement in the general classification as well as stage wins. The team also includes several members of the now defunct Team Fakta of Denmark, including Scott Sunderland and Magnus Bäckstedt.

Tafi will look to good results in the Northern classics- Paris-Roubaix, and the Tour of Flanders. He also hopes to win at the Giro di Lazio, a race he has won in three different jerseys already (1991, 1996, 1998) In doing so he could surpass his boyhood idol, Francesco Moser, who also won the event three times. Andrea is also hoping to have a good showing at the Italian National Championships, the course goes practically right past his house.

(with thanks to Gazzetta dello Sport and cyclingnews.com

Dec 21
Translated from Bicisport (thanks Vince!):
Tafi, cosa fai: smetti o cerchi il riscatto? (Tafi: what are you doing: stopping or restarting?)
 
What ever happened to Andrea Tafi? The Tuscan racer was more absent than present. Only 2 millisecond flashes return to mind and rip into the darkness of 12 months spent in the shadows. Do you remember the misfortune in Roubaix, with those multiple punctures that virtually placed him outside the box in one of his brightest days? And Camaiore, when he was in a break on the last lap and had even lapped the field? Apart from these flashes, there is little else. Always far from the heart of the races, which conflicts with his characteristic traits. In these races, he rode from one moment to another, almost forgotten.
 
Why did we see so little of you at the front of the group?
"I've been paying for the fall in Prato in September of 2002. I hit my face and fractured my cheekbone."
 
At the end of the winter, you looked healed.
"Correct, everything seemed OK, but gradually during this racing season, these annoying ramifications popped up. They were accentuated."
 
What happened?
"Little by little, the left side of my nose actually became 99% blocked."
 
And what troubles did that give you?
"I coped with it at the beginning, but I couldn't breathe through my nose, so I used the next best thing, my mouth. And that's when my throat started to have complications."
 
When?
"After the Tour of Denmark, I took a month and a half of antibiotics. But still, after all of this, I couldn't lick the problem. I would then stop for two days. As soon as I returned on the bike, the sore throat would also return. My glands got swollen along with a light fever. From August on, I suffered so much."
 
It wasn't a good situation.
"Correct. I was demoralized. I felt so alone. I would be in front of the TV and I felt worse. I too could have been in those races I was watching. But I would leave for a training ride and the fever would return." And what was found in the analysis? "I did everything that was possible, but nothing was working."
 
How did you remedy this situation?
"Thanks to Professor Brizzi from Florence. Gianmattei and Castellacci sent me to him. He zeroed in on the nasal problems, I had a scan and he decided to intervene."
 
How?
"Brizzi advised against operating, however he was going to drain all of the canals. Even if the crash did all of that damage, according to him, this total flushing, rehoning, and total cleaning should be enough. In two visits, and with the laser, he opened up the canals by removing a little cartilage."
 
And now how are things?
"The function is not 100%, but enough air is passing through that I can breathe just like I did a year ago. You stayed off the bike? "I did not pedal for two and a half months. I was doing only gym work but I restarted on November 15th, approximately one month earlier than usual."
 
It looks like you are in a hurry to forget this awful year.
"I am 37 years old, I could have said enough! After 16 years in the professional ranks, I think I can truly say I gave so much."
 
Instead, your character is suggesting what?
"To slow down now is not in me because the results were lacking not because of inefficiency but only because of physical problems. I know I could still compete well in the races. I just want a jump start."
 
And with what objectives?
"It will be a very hard season but I want to do well with my new Alessio team. Then we have the Olympics. The Italian National Championships are real close to my house and where my parents live. And then the World Championships in Verona. I saw the Worlds in Hamilton and I think that someone like me could be real useful and instrumental to the team."
 
And how about Roubaix?
"I never forget about that race, I just did not highlight it."
 
The 2004 season could be your last?
"Yes, it could be. I will fight to arrive at my maximum and I am convinced that I could be at the same height as my rivals. But if I don't feel good, no sensations, I would prefer to say enough. I want to leave a beautiful record to my tifosi."
 
Nov 17
Andrea's new team Alessio will convene at the team's headquarters, near Padova in north-east Italy, for medicals and equipment fittings from December 16-19. This will be followed by a ten-day training camp, likely in Malaga, Spain, in the middle of January.