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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
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.
Andrea will join a selection of cyclists in a charity football match this Saturday, November 22 in Rome. Andrea will be joined by World Champion Paolo Bettini, Fabrizio Guidi, Elio Aggiano, Dario Pieri, Max Sciandri and Massimiliano Lelli, with Franco Ballerini and Antonio Salutini directing the team. Their opponents will be a team of journalists, and the match will benefit the victims of the Nassiriya bombing and the charity group Emergency.
Andrea Tafi has signed for the 2004 season with Italian team Alessio-Bianchi, although with the "merger" with a sizeable portion of Danish team Fakta, he hasn't completely put his Danish adventure behind him.
No victories in 2003- the first such drought for Tafi since 1995. Only a 5th place finish at Paris-Roubaix, where he rode strongly at the front for most of the day until puncturing 25km from the finish, gave any satisfaction for an otherwise forgettable campaign. It appears that Tafi weighed his options and rejected the recent last offer from CSC before signing with the Italian team. Andrea made no secret of the fact that he did not approve of the racing program laid out for him this past season by Bjarne Riis- Tafi has always said he needs to race a lot to find top form. There were many races that seemed to suit the Tuscan's talents where he was left on the outside looking in on the CSC team. There also appears to have been an offer from Patrick Lefevere's new team, Division II team Bodysol-Brustor. Lefevere has been quoted on Sportwereld as saying he thought he had a deal with tafi locked up, but Alessio put up Euro 40,000 more and is guaranteed a place in all the World Cup events.
With the evergreen Baldato, Cassani and newcomers Backstedt and Sunderland, Tafi joins a capable classics squad and certainly hopes to finish his 16th, and what will in all likelihood be his last, professional season with a great victory.
Alessio is a manufacturer of aluminum wheels. For 2003 they had a budget of 3 million Euro. The team rode De Rosa frames with Campagnolo components, but with Bianchi as a co-sponsor, this will probably change. Alessio were the team GC winners at the 2002 Giro d'Italia. They finished the 2003 season ranked 12th in Division I.
Manager: Bruno Cenghialta
Sport Director: Dario Mariuzzo
Assistants: Valerio Tebaldi, Peter Nielsen
Riders: Fabio Baldato (Ita), Alessandro Bertolini (Ita), Andrea Brognara (Ita), Stefano Casagranda (Ita), Davide Casarotto (Ita), Enrico Cassani (Ita), Pietro Caucchioli (Ita), Raffaele Ferrara (Ita), Davide Frattini (Ita), Angelo Furlan (Ita), Ruslan Ivanov (Mda), Denis Lunghi (Ita), Vladimir Miholievic (Cro), Christian Moreni (Ita), Andrea Noč (Ita), Franco Pellizotti (Ita), Alberto Vinale (Ita).
New in 2004: Andrea Tafi (Ita) from CSC, Allan Bo Andresen (Den), Magnus Backstedt (Swe), René Jřrgensen (Den), Michael Skelde (Den), Scott Sunderland (Aus)from Fakta. Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) from Crédit Agricole, Ellis Rastelli (Ita) from Gerolsteiner and Claus Michael Mřller (Den) from Milaneza
It looks like cycling4all may have had their info mixed up between Flanders and CSC. In an interview in Danish newspaper Politiken, Bjarne Riis said that he has sent a contract to Andrea Tafi and that Riis expects Tafi to sign it
Perhaps there is a new twist in the plot. The website cycling4all is reporting that Danish sources say Flanders, a TT2 team may be in talks with Tafi for 2004. They have also recently signed Andrea's former Mapei teammates Fabien DeWaele and Eddy Ratti and may be looking at Andrea's Tuscan neighbor Max Sciandri as well to join the team, because of the new Italian co-sponsor Afin.com.
What's it like to race against the Gladiator? From an excerpt of an article at bike.com, relating the experiences of first year professional racers, Larry Perera (sportsbook.com) reports: "On the second lap at Lancaster (ed: a race held in the US in June) I decided to move up through some of the finishing turns and moved up through the corners not afraid to make some friends on the way. I was cruising, making up 10 and 20 places at a time, then all of a sudden this nasty looking guy all kitted up in CSC stuff bumped me and gave me the look over, and mumbled something in Italian. I looked into his eyes, gave him my game face and bumped him back. Then things went into slow motion, my mind began firing and I realized that it was Andrea Tafi, I was mixing it up with freaking Andrea Tafi! I nearly had a heart attack. I backed off a bit and followed his wheel through the next turn".
The saga continues, as it look like Bjarne Riis may try to talk Andrea into returning to CSC. Recent additions Bartoli, Guidi and Hoj have strengthened CSC's classics contingent. News to follow when it comes!
Although it looked like Andrea would take the start at the Giro di Lucca, he was not on the CSC team. And they've left him off the Paris-Tours team, a race he won in 2000. Sadly, I think it's the end of the road for this team and this season for Andrea. Let's hope that the rumored Alessio deal gets done and we see a better season for the Gladiator in 2004!
The word on the strada is that Andrea is close to inking a deal with Alessio for next season. It's been his wish to return to an Italian team, after his Danish excursion that never really seemed to find the right chemistry. It does seem a bit of a strech to go to Alessio for a man who wants to put in a strong bid at Paris-Roubaix- only the evergreen Fabio Baldato made it to the velodrome last year for Alessio.
Andrea gets back in the saddle for the Giro della Provincia di Lucca, a race held practically in his backyard from Sep 30-Oct 3. Let's hope Andrea has recovered from his Tour of Denmark virus and gets back in form for some of the fall races.
Well, it appears that there may be something behind Andrea's missing in action status over the last few weeks after all. There are reports that Andrea will be leaving CSC and is currently searching for an Italian team. I guess CSC is not willing to renew his contract- perhaps saving up the cash for a possible Jan Ullrich signing
Where is Andrea? It seems as though he's fallen off the face of the earth- no race results- no upcoming calendar from the team. Let's hope we see Tafi on the start line soon. And what about a contract extension? No word from CSC as of yet.
After a 55th place finish in the stage 5 time trial, 1:41 back of the stage winner, Andrea uncorked a late attack with 6km to go in the final sixth stage. He was caught and finished in the big 80 rider field sprint, in 65th place, just :02 back of the stage winner. His final GC placing was 62nd at 29:44. Andrea will not be in the CSC team for either the Zurich round of the World Cup or the Vuelta a Espana.
In today's third stage, Andrea finished back in the group in 56th place, 19:10 down from winner Museeuw and is now 52nd in the GC at 20:20
In the second stage, Andrea finished in the same time as the leaders in 49th and is in 38th on GC at 2:15.
In the first stage of the Post Danmark Rundt which runs from today until August 16, Andrea finished 41st, in the main field at 2:05 back of the the leading group of 14.
Team CSCs colors got a lot of exposure in Tuscanys biggest one day race; the 193,7-kilometre Gran Premio Citta' di Camaiore (UCI 1.2). The race took place on a circuit in and around the city of Camaiore and Tuscan homeboy Andrea Tafi was on the offensive right from the start. With a long lasting solo breakaway, the strong Italian rider demonstrated that he is ready to deliver a strong performance in the upcoming Post Tour of Denmark that starts on August 12th.
Tafi went solo almost from the start and he was out in front for the first 130-140 kilometres. He was able to maintain a good and steady pace and CSC got a lot of exposure out of his offensive. The circuit was very tough with a steep climb and the race was not made easier by the fact that it was almost 40 degrees Celsius. Tafi was caught in the final and retired from the race. Good exposure yes, but Andrea was not among the official finishers, thus missing out on any UCI points.
At the HEW Cyclassics, the German round of the World Cup, Andrea finished 142nd, after an untimely puncture and another long wheel change. Andrea is not on the Team CSC roster for the upcoming San Sebastien World Cup race.
At the Tour of the Wallone Region, Andrea placed 62nd at 11:03 i the third stage, 73rd at 1;02 in stage four, and 73rd at 1:11 in th final stage. His final GC was 62nd at 13:34.
At the Tour of the Wallone Region, Andrea finished 62nd in Stage 1, 19 seconds back of the leader and 48th, 2:35 back in Stage 2. He is 61st on GC at 2:51.
Andrea will start today at the Tour of the Wallone Region in Belgium, a five day stage race that concludes on Aug 1.
Andrea was not on the start list for the Sachsen Tour.
Andrea finished 104th at 22:45 in the first stage and then abandoned in stage 2 of the Route du Sud (June 21-2).
There has been a lot of discussion over at the CSC official website about whether Andrea should have been selected to the team's Tour de France squad. A powerful rider on the flats, but perhaps without the ability to accompany the team's GC riders on the mountain stages, Andrea does not fit into DS Bjarne Riis's plans. But perhaps it's for the best. At 37, what will a three week Grand Tour take out of the Tuscan, who still can make big headlines for the team in the upcoming fall races? His next appointment will be the Sachsen Tour, from 23-27 July.
Back at the team cars after the USPRO race in Philadelphia Sunday, I asked Andrea if this was perhaps the last time he would race in the US. With no hesitation he said "no, next year". When I asked him if he had unfinished business in Roubaix (5th this year, :36 secs back after horrendous bad luck with five flats and two bike changes, capped off by the world's slowest front wheel change in the last 25km after he spent most of the race near the front), he laughed and said "maybe!", but his eyes had the fire that meant yes definitely. Even after 15 seasons, Tafi still has the hunger, still has the passion.
He mentioned that although they (CSC) did a lot of work Sunday, maybe they did not make the race hard enough and that they were unlucky not to have more men in the final group to support Julian Dean. It didn't help when Piil crashed in the last lap and could not be up front to help do the leadout. He was happy for his former Mapei teammate Zanini's win, they did this race together in 1997. Andrea said his next appointment is the Route du Sud in France.
I had a chance to visit Andrea on Thursday at the Trenton Classic, the second part of the Wachovia trifecta. Arriving at the staging area about an hour before the race start, I found the place buzzing with activity- riders warming up, mechanics running here and there with wheels and spare bikes, soigneurs getting the feed bags ready. As I came up on the CSC team car, I saw DS Johnny Weltz and was about to ask him if Tafi was going to ride tonight when I heard a voice coming from the back seat of their teams minivan calling "Io Tifo Tafi!" It was Andrea himself, getting a kick out of my Tafi fan club T-shirt. He made a point of letting the other guys on the team know that he had fans everywhere, even here in the US.
He was still in team warmups and it was inside an hour before the start gun. I had brought Andrea a copy of the days La Gazzetta dello Sport, knowing he follows the Italian Serie A games pretty closely and I figured he would welcome some news from home. He was glad to get the paper and traded me a signed CSC cap. He turned to the cycling news section and quickly noticed that his buddy Michele Bartoli had pulled out of the Tour of Germany with congestion. Then Weltz came over and we talked briefly about the young French rider Salanson's recent death. He mentioned that it happens sometimes to even young healthy riders. When I said I felt particularly bad for his roommate and friend Sylvain Chavanel because I thought it would really affect Chavanel's performance in the upcoming Tour, Weltz said that sometimes things like this make a person even stronger.
Andrea said he was happy to be back racing in the United States; he hadn't been here since 1997 when he came over with Mapei. He mentioned that he liked the friendly people and enjoyed the Philadelphia course. He said the races here were particularly important as the head of the CSC US operation was at the races this week and that team boss Bjarne Riis was also in town looking to court a potential US sponsor. We talked about his new website and I gave him a hard time because it never gets updated. I told him I would put some pictures from the US races up on my website.
It's amazing what a few months of being on this new team has done for Andreas English. Although CSC is a Danish team, the language of the team is English - most of the Danes already speak good English, they also have Julian Dean, a Kiwi and only the two Italians (Tafi and Andrea Peron), although Johnny Weltz speaks Italian.
I guess when youve been around the block as much as Tafi, a 15 year veteran of professional cycling, little things like warming up and signing on are part of a long-established personal routine. He was just about the last guy to sign in and practically put on his kit just minutes before the scheduled start, knowing there would be a long delay of pre-race activities and announcements before the actual race would begin.
It didn't seem to be a problem because on the first 6 mile lap of the 91 mile race, Il Tafone went to the front and dragged the entire peloton along State Street at 30 miles per hour. Maybe this was his way of warming up! The CSC team did a phenomenal job of controlling the race from the front, placing Lars Michaelsen in one break and then, later on, coming to the front to pull back any attacks.
I still can't figure out why Riis does not think Tafi's horsepower would be an asset to Tyler Hamiltons GC bid at the upcoming Tour de France. Tafi is a guy that can drag along the whole bunch for hours on end. The race action has been described elsewhere, suffice to say that CSC made sure it was revved up enough in the closing laps so that guys were being shelled out the back even on the downwind leg! Julian Dean repaid his teammates in the best way possible with a full field sprint finish win. The race was run in course record time, less than 3 hours for the 91 miles! I overheard a guy from the small Jittery Joe's team talking about the race, shaking his head in disbelief at the way Tafi was hammering along at over 30 miles an hour and carrying on a conversation while he was literally on the rivet with his tongue hanging out.
Morale in the team after the race was pretty high, with two wins out of two races, important UCI points and some great exposure in their US market. Tafi had finished third in the sprints competition for some extra cash.
Back at the cars, while Julian was off to the podium presentation, Joseph was giving the guys their post-race rubdowns, some drinks and food. Tafi rolled up, couldn't find a place to put his bike in the crush of people and handed it to me. I took it and carefully laid his #38 team issue Cervelo Soloist next to Julian's bike. Andrea signed a bunch of autographs for his fans and made plans for the rest day tomorrow. He asked me if I could bring a paper by the hotel (which is only about 2 hours from my house) Yeah, right! See you Sunday, Andrea.
Tafi comes to America! Andrea is on the rider list for the Wachovia Series, some of the most important races held in the United States. Nothing confirmed at the CSC team website, but hopefully, Andrea will be making his appearance once again at the Lancaster, Trenton and Philadelphia USPRO races held the first week of June. Any Tafi tifosi planning on attending? Let's get together!
A message from Andrea-
"There are only a few sports that let one appreciate nature. Cycling is one of them. For me, born and raised away from the smog of the city, it's frantic pace and it's bottled up traffic, with an office manager waiting for you if you leave out a comma or looking at his watch if you are late, my way was a better way to become a man.
It's fantastic passing on the roads, even by foot, always finding a smiling, friendly face who invites you to a coffee bar to offer something other than water, remembering that the competitive appointments are far away and a glass of wine, made by Maria's cousin, can be tasted and appreciated. I pass on the bike, after a beautifully hard workout, where I was just trying out the legs, a cycling fan who asked me for advice, while he remained next to me all the way to my house. He left me very happy and satisfied and was going to put my advice to use on the very next day, Sunday. This is no work!
Connected to nature, the friendly ties with the people. This I love. This I tell and share with my wife and kids (Gloria, Tomasso and Greta). Its very likely that I will race through 2004 , then I'll think of something to do. "How could he, he's too old to remain in the peloton, maybe he could hang around with old friends or give valued advice to new riders", many give these helpful details. But for this, your Andrea already has a project in which he will make you a participant at the opportune moment".
After his DNF at Dunkirk (going to his Granfondo?), Andrea lined up in Beauvais on Friday, May 16 for the first of the four stages of the Tour de Picardie. He finished 50th, 31st, 74th and 40th (TT) in the stages and 37th in the final GC.
Buon Compleanno Andrea! 37 today.
It's in Italian of course, but lots of nice photos, history, etc. It's great and it's about time!
ANDREA'S LUCKY NUMBER 7
He was born on the 7th of May.
He married his wife Gloria on the 7th of April.
He had his best rides in the Giro and the Tour in his 7th year as a pro.
His 96 Giro di Lombardia win was his 7th win in Italy and his 7th win for Mapei.
His 7th foreign win was Paris-Brussels.
He wore #17 the year he won Paris-Roubaix.
His highest overall UCI ranking is #7 in 1998, a year he also notched 7 wins.
He finished 77th at his first Paris-Roubaix and won the race on his 7th attempt.
He has finished in the top twenty in Paris-Roubaix 7 times so far.
He wore #77 and he won the Ronde van Vlaanderen last year on the 7th of April.
He has at least one victory in each of the last 7 seasons.
His five World Cup wins have come in a 7 year span.
(with thanks to Andy Sullivan)
By the way, Andrea finished 31st in Stage 1 of the Quatre Jours de Dunkerque (held over 5 days and six stages) that began its 49th edition today.
Following his 48th place in final GC at Niedersachsen (32nd in the final fifth stage and won by CSC teammate Jalabert), Andrea had a good weekend at the "Danish Classics", with 11th place at the GP S.A.T.S. on Saturday, where he was unlucky with a puncture in the final kms. "I was actually feeling very well and I believe that I attacked at the right moment. Up until that point, the team had supported me well. Of course, I am disappointed that I was unable to finish the job because it is a good race. Unfortunately, the punctures prevented me from winning once again", said Tafi after the 195 km race. "We gave it our best shot but it just was not our day. At one point, things were looking well but then Tafi had his puncture just as he was attacking along with Backstedt," said Bjarne Riis. At the CSC Classic on Sunday, he finished 20th and helped CSC teammate Piil to the win.
Andrea gave a display of the aggressive style of riding which has won him so many impressive victories throughout his career. The Italian had come inside the 2-kilometre mark before his 110 km offensive on the 176 km 3rd stage from Osterode to Göttingen was neutralised. He eventually finished 65th and is now 54th on GC.
"Originally, Tafi was part of a larger front group, but he split it apart and continued with a solo offensive. Towards the finish, Telekom brought their entire team to the front of the peloton and that was too much of a mouthful for him. Still, Tafi's effort today is a clear indication that he is rid of his injury and I would expect to see him in front of the two Danish races next week", said Johnny Weltz.
After his no start at Amstel, Andrea comes to the Niedersachsen race. In the morning time trial, he finished in 65th, 2:13:47 behind the winner and in the following road stage, 31st with the same time as the winner to put him in 65th on GC at 2:14.
The rocky road that has become this season continues. Andrea is suffering from an inflammation around his rib cage, causing pain on his right side. Tafi paid a visit to his doctor in Lucca, Italy, who detected the inflammation. The Italian's participation in Amstel Gold is not entirely assured, and if the aggravation continues he may be forced to take a break from competition. (courtesy of cyclingnews.com)
Andrea's next appointment is the Amstel Gold World Cup race on Sunday. It's a race in which he second in 1997 (behind current CSC head man Bjarne Riis). Then it's the Niedersachsen-Rundfahrt from April 23-27 in Germany. He is not listed in the team for Fleche Wallone or Liege.
WOW, what a race! Andrea was a force majeur in Paris-Roubaix, riding on the front, driving the pace and delivering on his pre-race promise to make the race fast and hard. Andrea was extremely motivated and aggressive in this years edition of the Paris-Roubaix.
On the final kilometres, the Italian set a high pace that decimated the peloton heavily. Tafi looked like a strong contender for the victory, but a puncture on the cobblestones at the Carrefour de L'Arbre meant that he lost contact with the front group. It was the fourth puncture he had that day, but the timing of this last one was a cruel blow for a man who had delivered such a powerful performance.
"I had the legs but not the luck. I was very motivated and I have seldom felt so much on top of the situation in a Paris-Roubaix. My 5th place (at 36 seconds) does not quite do justice to my performance, however, it was plain for everyone to see that I was one of the best riders today. This is my race and I am of course very disappointed that I was unable to finish the job for myself and the team who really put their hearts in todays effort", said Andrea Tafi when the dust had finally settled after a tough Paris-Roubaix.
"Tafi did a great Paris-Roubaix. He has reason to be proud of his performance. I am proud of his will to fight and the motivation that lay behind. The team supported him well when he needed it the most. After the first six pavés, we still had eight riders in the race. In the finale it was each man for himself and that is where Tafi came into his own. His puncture was very badly timed but that is the way it is in a race like this", said Bjarne Riis after the race.
"I had four flats and crashed. That's how it went for me at Roubaix. I was feeling good and the team did a really good job working for me, but I was quite unlucky. On the pavé I had two flats. First the rear tire, then I changed the bike. I had my second flat on the pavé right when Van Petegem attacked. But that's the way cycling goes", said Tafi and he also insisted that this would not be his last Paris-Roubaix.
Tafi wants a Fast Race
At a press conference on Saturday in Compiegne, CSC's Andrea Tafi outlined his goals for Paris-Roubaix. The 1999 winner will be riding a Cervelo steel SuperProdigy bike for the race, along with the rest of his team. Tafi hopes that his form is right, after having a less than brilliant performance at Flanders.
"Last year my form was excellent for Flanders, and I had a very special day," he said. "This year I didn't have that day, I was just at my standard level. Tomorrow is a different race. I have different ambitions, and I have a strong team around me."
For Roubaix, the tactics are simple for Tafi and his team. "When I win big races, it's because I attack," he stated emphatically. "It is better for my team to attack than to follow Quick-Step. It's important for the team to be at the front before the first section of pavé, then stay together."
"For me it is very important to go fast, and it's very important that it doesn't rain! Maybe some other guys like the rain, but not me. In the rain it is harder to go fast."
"When I won in 1999, there was more tension in the [Mapei] team. Things were more complicated. This week I've worked very well, only thinking of Sunday. I'm very happy because the team is with me completely. Wednesday after Gent-Wevelgem, I organised a dinner for my teammates. A good Italian dinner, with good food. The team is extremely motivated."
Andrea Tafi has a piece of Paris-Roubaix back home in Italy. "In my house I have one stone [Paris-Roubaix trophy]. I want another to balance it out," he said. Tafi's favourites are Museeuw, Van Petegem, Boonen, VDB, Pieri and Baldato.
The CSC bike for Roubaix is a steel SuperProdigy frame, although Tafi used an aluminum frame in Flanders. The steel machine has a slightly longer top tube, as the aluminum frame didn't have quite enough clearance for the 700x28 tires. The whole team is riding steel tomorrow, according to Gerard Vroomen from Cervelo. The inner chainrings are 46 tooth.
When the 101st edition of the Paris-Roubaix starts in Compiégne, a little north of the city of cities, on Sunday, Team CSCs Andrea Tafi will be ready to defend both his own as well as the teams honour. So far, the classics season has not had much to offer for the team, and Tafi is well aware of his responsibilities.
"I have yet to make a result but that has a lot to do with illness and injuries. I am aware that my result in the Tour of Flanders was not too impressive, but that does not prevent me from being optimistic when it comes to my chances in the Paris-Roubaix. Those two races are very different from each other and the Paris-Roubaix suits my current form level much better. I will definitely be ready for the challenge", says Tafi who has been training hard after the Tour of Flanders in order to be ready for the Hell of the North as the race has aptly been named.
The final 100 km of the race are filled with cobblestone sections and the chaotic scenes on these so-called paveés are just the kind of racing that Tafi prefers. In 1999, he was the first rider on the velodrome in Roubaix where he arrived wearing the coveted Italian champions jersey.
"I have lots of experience with this race and the event means a lot to me both personally and as a rider", says the former winner who will be backed by a team that includes both Tristan Hoffman and Thomas Bruun Eriksen both of which have the necessary class to be part of the action well into the finale. Last year, Hoffman finished 4th and young Thomas Bruun Eriksen made a small breakthrough when he was able to stay with the front group for more than 170 km.
The race is a crowd magnet. The insane cobblestone sections, of which Fôret Arenberg, Mons-En-Pevele, and the Carrefour de L'Arbre are some of the most famous, guarantee world class drama. No rider reaches Roubaix without bruises, and for many riders, it is a goal in itself, just to complete the race, as strange as this may sound when the context is professional cycling.
For Tafi, the issue is not whether he will complete the race. For him, there is only one valid strategy that can ensure a new triumph on the cobblestones and that is: attack! (courtesy Team CSC website)
In a crash and injury filled Gent-Wevelgem, Andrea stayed upright and finished 46th and stands ready to test his legs on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix on Sunday. Forza Andrea!
An up and down pre-season put paid to Andrea's hopes of repeating at Flanders. On the CSC website, he says "I did not have the necessary strength on the climbs and I did not feel on top of the situation when other riders attacked. Still, I completed the race and I choose to regard the race as a test for the Paris-Roubaix where I wish to demonstrate my abilities". Andrea finished 47th, 6'38 behind the winning time.
Flanders- Tafi Chases An Encore
By Francesco Ceniti, La Gazzetta dello Sport
To win the Tour of Flanders is like graduating after passing a hard examination. It is not a case of exaggeration to call it the "race of the walls", just look at the difficulties of the distance: 255 kilometers to pedal without any lapses of concentration, trying, above all, to measure out the efforts needed to make it up 19 cobbled climbs, (where many riders are forced to walk) on which the fortune (or the misfortune) of a rider is often decided.
These things Andrea Tafi knows to perfection, having last season put it all together, in order to enjoy the thrill of raising his arms in victory. A triumph that was made even better by the age of the Tuscan gladiatore: 36 years. Twelve months after, Tafi tells us he is not showing up just to honor his status of "outgoing champion", even confiding that he looks for a historic encore. The CSC racer answers I have passed all winter on the pedals thinking ahead to the classic races of the North. The distances on the pavé are those that are more adapted to my characteristics and strengths. You can say that these races bring out the best in me. Not only that, but I have made myself a promise: to gain one beautiful classic before retiring. You ask, who are my rivals? There are many, from Van Petegem to Bettini, and dont forget Museeuw".
The Belgian racer has just revealed his intentions: he will participate at Flanders (he has won in three editions: 1993, 1995, 1998) although a pulmonary infection has kept him under the weather for days. Museeuw has decided to try the distance with his teammates Paolo Bettini and Luca Paolini. They are among the favorites. But Tafi is ready to play his cards, in the hope that his hand is equal to those of last season.
Andrea is not confident of successfully defending his title this Sunday. He contracted an illness after Tirreno-Adriatico, and then raced Milan-San Remo and Setmana Catalana. He is not riding the Driedaagse van De Panne, saying that he needs "rest and no cobbles."
"I've raced for twenty days, now I have to recover," he was quoted in the Gazet van Antwerpen. "Furthermore, I'm afraid of a crash. At the moment, I'm 30 percent below my condition of last year. Only those who are in top condition can say that the Ronde is not hard. For everyone else, it's the Way of the Cross." (courtesy of cylingnews.com)
Things get stranger and stranger. Although CSC had him listed on the team just yesterday, Andrea was not on the start list for today's 3 Days of DePanne. CSC fielded only a seven man team and dossard #58 (usually Tafi's number) was open. Out of the seven, 2 CSC riders abandoned and one other did not start. Is this any way to get ready for Flanders and Roubaix?
No ride for Andrea at E3-Harelbeke, but he will ride in Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, the third event of the Vlaamse Wielerweek, which culminates this Sunday with the Ronde van Vlaanderen. This three day/four stage race is a challenging but important competition, especially for those wanting to do well on Sunday. Starting with a 196 km race from Middelkerke to Zottegem tomorrow, the Driedaagse travels to Koksijde on stage 2 (228 km), before the final split day in De Panne. A morning stage of 110 km is followed by an afternoon time trial of 14 km, which typically decides the classification.
On a rainy day, Andrea was a DNF in today's last stage. Playing it safe so as to not get sick before the April classics, crash, illness? Details to follow when known. Tafi is listed as an alternate on the CSC team for Saturday's GP E3 Harelbeke race in Belgium.
A day in the grupetto for Andrea, finishing 19'28 back of the leaders in today's climbing stage and he is now 109th on GC at 38'05. It's an "interesting" way to train for Flanders and Roubaix!
The 3rd stage of the Setmana Catalane from Castello d'Empuries to Parets del Vallés was relatively flat and there were lots of attacks throughout the day. Tafi was the main instigator of a couple of wholehearted attacks but it was to no avail as the sprinter's teams had their minds set on a mass sprint. After finishing today's stage in 55th place with the same time as the leaders, he is now 101st on GC at 18'37.
Andrea finished today's Milan-San Remo World Cup race 6'28 behind the winner (former Mapei teammate Bettini) to finish in 120th place. Next up is Setmana Catalana, the last tune-up before the Northern Spring Classics.
Today's last stage finished in a big bunch sprint, with Andrea taking 57th and ending the race 112th on GC. CSC announced today they will not be riding the Giro d'Italia but will contest the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana. But first- La Primavera on Saturday!
Andrea continues in T-A, although he finished 12'26 back of the leaders and now lies 117th on GC at 23'26 after Stage 6. Yesterday saw him with a 96th place finish in Stage 5, a little over 8 minutes back and in 119th on GC at 11'23. The race finishes tomorrow and then it's on to Milan for the first World Cup race of the season on Saturday.
Big bunch sprint today saw Andrea finish in 106th, now 147th on GC at 3'12.
Stage 2 and at the 138 km mark, Andrea joined an attack, gaining 1'25. Tafi won the next intermediate sprint in San Severa, but the group was caught on the climb of Tolfa. Andrea paid a bit for his efforts, finishing 3'04 down and is now 153rd in GC.
Today's first stage of T-A was almost like a criterium and Andrea Tafi was very active in the only serious breakaway of the day. The break was caught and Andrea finished in the big bunch finish in 88th place.
Tirreno-Adriatico is Andrea's next appointment. It starts tomorrow and runs through next Wednesday. There are only 10 days until Milan-San Remo, hopefully the racing in the next week will set him up for a good day there.
The race begins with a flat circuit race in the start town of Sabaudia on the east coast before heading north up the coast past the outskirts of Rome to the stage two finish in Tarquinia. On stage three, the parcours starts to heat up and the peloton faces four stages across the Apennines beginning with an undulating 168 km from Tarquinia to Foligno.
Stage four takes the race tantalizingly close to the Adriatic and the next day, the race actually speeds down the coast at Civitanove Marche for a few kilometres before three ascents of nearby Montegranaro and a finish in Rapagnano. Stage six is a twisting and turning 179 km through the Parco Nazionale de Gran Sasso and over the race's last major climb through to Ceppo at 4,780 ft. The final day of racing heads back to the coast and into the local countryside before the six finishing circuits in San Benedetto.
The on again/off again schedule continues for Andrea as now he is off the team for Paris-Nice and scheduled to do Tirreno-Adriatico. With two recent DNFs at Het Volk and Kuurne, perhaps Andrea needs more training and the the route of Paris-Nice just may not be the place.
Our source in Europe suggests that the poor weather in northern Europe could pose a health risk for the upcoming April races- it's no time to come down with the flu and in the "race of the two seas" in Italy, the sun has more of a chance to shine for him and it will be hotter as well. Andrea usually rides quietly there, he was 22nd in 1997, 40th in 1993, 66th in 1999 and 72nd in 2001,the last time he rode the race. His best result on a stage there was a 4th place on stage 1 of the 1990 edition.
In the 1999 edition, Tafi got to celebrate Mapei's 400th victory (teammate Bartoli won overall GC). At the end of the race, Tafi and his teamates started throwing pieces of the special cake specially made for the occasion at each other with laughter all round. See a picture of the day HERE.
(From the rumor mill- Tafi may not ride this years Giro even if CSC comes to the race. He might be riding the Granfondo della Vernacchia in Tuscany May 11th, while the Giro starts May 10 and he can't be in 2 places at once. Thanks, Andy)
On Tuesday, Andrea returned to the scene of his great triumph from last season when he trained with his CSC teammates over the route of this year's Ronde van Vlaanderen. Andrea thinks the added hills of this year's parcours will mean that the team's support riders will not be the main factor in the last parts of the race, implying that there will be no free rides to the finish, the winner will have to be really good on the day, and perhaps meaning that one strong man can hold his own against a big team.
Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport's Mino Minoliti, Tafi noted that "from the Oude-Kwaremont (km 177) onward, there will not be one moment to rest. Before there were some false flats and moments to recover. Now the continual up and down will bring a lot of stress to the race, besides the physical suffering."
Tafi added that one of the three new climbs, the Foreest (km 211), could be particularly decisive. "The Foreest will be very important," he explained. "It's a pretty long climb. If you have good legs you could make an important selection. Otherwise, you might pay for it."
Tafi added that he loves the race, and is looking forward to defending his title. The Italian veteran's early season preparation has gone well, following a start at the Tour Down Under in Australia. (courtesy of cyclingnews.com)
Well, Andrea may have started his first Het Volk, but a crash at the bottom of the Muur de Grammont saw him call it a day. The next day he again was a DNF in the Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne race. Not an especially auspicious start to the spring campaign. Paris-Nice is next on the calendar.
Well it appears now as if Andrea might be doing the weekend double, as the CSC team site (although not the official race website) list him in the team for both Saturday's Het Volk and Sunday's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Maybe the lack of racing at Langkawi has him in need of some hard miles. We'll see. In recent years, Het Volk has been a good barometer of who will be going well in the big spring races.
Did not see Andrea's name on the Haribo Classic finisher's list. Not sure if he did not take the start or was a DNF. Sunday, it's the Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, but Andrea will skip Saturday's Het Volk. Later in the month, Andrea will compete in the Paris-Nice stage race, repeating his program from last year's buildup to the spring classics
Andrea will ride in today's Haribo Classic in the south of France. The race is sponsored by the Marseille firm which makes the famous Gummi Bears. Results to follow soon.
Present at a press conference at the Le Tour de Langkawi was Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, cycling legend Francesco Moser, Executive Chairman Datuk Wan Lokman Dato Paduka Wan Ibrahim, Race Controller Alan Rushton and... Andrea Tafi?
Tafi's new team CSC may not be around, but the Italian star - a perennial crowd favourite - made his way to Langkawi all the same, albeit as race guest. He was in Australia for the Tour Down Under and flew to Malaysia to lend his support and watch the action in conjunction with the race's organising body, First Cartel.
The Classics hero from Tuscany said he was disappointed at not being able to participate, saying, "to me it is not a wise move," referring to his team's decision to miss the UCI 2.2 ranked event.
Tafi first competed here in 1997 with the Mapei-GB team and has since been a regular at the race, developing a strong affinity with the country and the organisers of the LTdL as a consequence. He said: "Malaysia and Asia had benefited enormously from the Le Tour de Langkawi."
"Malaysian cyclists are progressing well, but they need proper guidance from professionals. For that, I'm willing to share my experience and help the local riders develop further."
"The organisers First Cartel have done a great job in organising the Telekom Malaysia Le Tour de Langkawi, and personally, I believe that cycling is coming up strongly in Asia," said Tafi. (courtesy of cylingnews.com)
"I Want to Give Myself a Present- the Last Paris-Roubaix"
by Mariella Barbieri, January 2003 Bicisport
(English translation by Vince Galante)
Lamporecchio- How would you imagine the entrance to Tafi's house? A path of tiles or a reminder of the pavé roads? You understand already. Upon opening the gates, you are ushered in by a strip of pave, held and bonded with cement- it gives the effect of a piece of road from the North, the same roads that made Andrea Tafi big. The Tuscan went through great extensive lengths to locate these symbols, he moved mountains and oceans and by the river Serchio, he found them and picked them one by one.
This is the villa which Tafi announced right after his 99 Roubaix victory. To build upon that first block, even that a symbolic gesture, because that particular piece of pave is proudly standing next to the bronze trophy from the last Flanders with all his other trophies in his case and it is the first one visitors see. In these two victories, there is the entire career of the Tuscan: the race that launched him in the status of the great and the race that cancelled his premature retirement.
If Tafi, at 37, is ready to confront his 15th season with the pros, with the fire, conviction and countenance of a beginner, the merit goes to exactly these impossible roads, which, for Tafi, are another call to attack.
Let's turn back to that famous Sunday, the 7th of April 2002. Tafi entered the race, convinced he would work for the team and in his head thinking ahead to Roubaix. "There were so many teammates that started that particular race with very serious intentions but I'll admit, I didn't sport that same attitude to win Flanders. In the first 100 km., I didn't exactly feel in a winning way. When we entered the first sections of cobbles, I flatted and I lost a couple of minutes because the team car was so far behind. But when I got back on the saddle, I caught a winning fever just like I did in Roubaix. All of a sudden, I was on fire, with an incredible conviction, I felt I could do it. I said to myself, if I can get up to the front I want to try something."
Tafi proved that it wasn't time to retire yet, as the team politicians encouraged him to do in so many ways. They hinted to him that he would look good in the second half of the season in a jacket and tie, indicating a public relations position with Mapei. He says, "But I felt inside that I had plenty to give, while hints of why are you continuing, why don't you stop were still coming. No one would tell me directly, but in reality, they were saying it's time to stop, in good terms, using the front door, going out with pride and head held up. On the eve of Flanders, I felt torn, confused from all of those hints. It did not seem right that my team was saying all of these things."
On September 24th, Tafi rode his last race with the Mapei jersey. But it was to be a premature closure. During the GP Prato, halfway through the race, in the town of Signa, he hit a manhole cover that was not sitting correctly. The front wheel went inside the hole, his face hit the ground, and he ended up with a couple of fractures and a huge cut, the scars of which still remind him of that race. This last Mapei jersey, ripped and torn, is in the same showcase with his National Champion's jersey, a testimonial of the great love of the Tuscan for the team that welcomed him when there was no one around.
After almost having placed his career in the showcase, Tafi is ready to start again with the spirit of a kid. His last big challenge is CSC, the Danish squad who has given him carte blanche in all the classics. So, after so many years of elbows and shoves and the fight for the role of captain, he is beginning to dream big.
"For me, the San Remo was always forbidden. But I am convinced that if I arrive there with excellent condition, I could paint a great picture. To race it 'a la Tafi' could net great results. But if we limo the sprinters up to 50k left, there will be nothing left to do. But I am one who wants the race kept hard and I will do everything in my power to make it difficult for all the others. All of the races I have won, I conquered them by exposing the adversaries in the open- this is my interpretation of cycling."
"I'm also aware that this type of racing has cost me a lot of wins, but the ones that I've won have placed burning enthusiasm in the fans, the fans who love old world racing, always fighting, never holding back! Some asked me 'would you exchange your 5 World Cup wins for Cipos 200 wins'? Not even ONE! I have all respect for Mario, he's a great champion, but my cycling is of a different breed."
Tafi didn't win that many races in his career (30ish in total) but he won with class. Behind his desk, he arranged the trophies that were of utmost importance. Then, his many jerseys, including a pink one, from Toni Rominger, with a beautiful dedication. "That 95 Giro", Tafi remembers, "was an exceptionally beautiful memory. Our group was very unified. We spent 22 days worrying that our captain would have a bad day. We worried that he would get a good block of sleep at night. We used to ask 'did you sleep ok, Toni?'. Those were the years of a Tafi as a great gregario, not yet a champion. The years of a man of hard work, who did a great base with two years at Carrera, under the direction of Roche, Ghirotto, Chiapucci. "I was the darling of the group, and it was great to hear these great champions come to me and say 'thank you for the hard work you did for me. Bravo'. I found the role of gregario very fitting, but the leaders used to tell me all the time- Andrea, if you have the opportunity, you could easily win."
Tafi could have easily won his first big Roubaix in 96. "It was my big opportunity, but it was the wrong moment because I had two great champions near me, Museeuw and Bortolami. If we look at the halls of fame in cycling, the captain always won, there was Moser and Saronni. There was no room for the gregario. But after that, things did not change a bit. For me, it was great pain. That finish was a disaster! Ironed out at the table. But after that, I gained a ton of confidence and it even changed how others felt about me."
Also on the wall, there is a hand-written note by Alfredo Martini, framed and hung proudly. It started with 'Dear Andrea, a nasty crash and all vanishes..." referring to the San Sebastien World Championships. But Tafi has another Worlds on his mind, and in his heart.
"Lugano, my first in a blue jersey, I was feeling great. I was sure I was doing all the right things for the good of the team. If we believed a bit more, we would have never let that group get away. I arrived 15 seconds from Museeuw but I could not quite catch him. I felt so bad."
It's time to eat and his kids return from school. Greta, six years old, dives at daddy and hugs him snugly. Dodi, a puppy of 1 month who was abandoned. Then arrived Tommasso, 12. You might remember him on the podium in Roubaix next to Andrea. Tommasso has chosen to play soccer; he is the center in the Calasanzio of Empoli. He polishes off a fast lunch and runs to his next practice.
Tafi understands, learning from Tomasso, whom he accompanies often to games and practices, that we need to devote so much to the kids. "It's very important to go to the schools and introduce our sport to the kids, and the life of a racer. I see it in my boy, he loves to go to the games of Empoli, he adores Di Natale, and he's dying to be near him to meet him. The kids want to see the champions; this is the way they could get closer to cycling. We can promote our sport. A unique sport whose fans are not violent, but with a great fraternity. Do you see the families that go to the races? You even see them on the Pordoi, on a picnic, and then they take in the race. There's no sport as beautiful as cycling."
This May, Tafi will be 37. But before he hangs up his bike and goes on a trip with his wife Gloria, the Tuscan has some scores to settle. He'll leave soon for the Tour Down Under, to prepare better for the new season. And we can bet that with his appointments on the cobbles, he will 100% ready. As always.
Just like last year, Andrea used the Tour Down Under to get in some high-quality race training. Active in all the stages, he looks fit, lean and ready to go for the upcoming Spring Classics, where he surely wants to make his mark. He finished 30th in GC at 5:54, but he was able to hold on to the overall Points Jersey. Next it's on to Malaysia to continue the warm-weather training but he won't be racing, as the race is not on the CSC program.
Well, Andrea must be feeling good because he certainly stretched his legs today, breaking away at the 12 km mark before finally being caught by the group aftert 120 km out in front. In the meantime, he won 2 intermediate sprints and after the surprise withdrawal of McEwen, once again wears the jersey of the leader of the Sprints competition.
Stage 4 was a hot one. Andrea finished 17th on the stage and moves up to 30th on GC at 1:59, but he lost his sprinters jersey to McEwen. Team CSC is now only 5 seconds out of the team competition lead.
Another big day for Il Tafone and CSC. Andrea won two sprints and now dons his second jersey of the race, leading the Sprint Competition, and Robbie McEwen of all people! Tafi now lies 32nd in GC at 2'05". Team CSC teammate Kristensen wears the KOM jersey and CSC is second in the Team competition.
Well, it didn't take Andrea long to show off the new CSC colors! At the first stage of the Tour Down Under, Andrea was a main protagonist, driving the winning breakaway and collected the Most Aggressive Rider jersey as a reward. After Stage 2, Andrea is in 40th place, 2:05 back of the leader. Team CSC is second in the teams competition.
Crowd favourite Andrea Tafi expressed his disappointment at not being able to compete in the up coming Tour de Langkawi, a race he has enjoyed doing for several years. The CSC rider is currently under assignment in Australia, where he will compete in the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under. Having developed a close bond with Malaysia and the Tour de Langkawi, of which he is the "unofficial ambassador", Tafi made a stop over in Kuala Lumpur recently, and made his courtesy call to race organisers First Cartel Bhd.
"I'm very much in love with Malaysia and I like racing in this part of the world. Too bad CSC will not be competing in the coming Tour de Langkawi. I would have loved to ride here again, meeting my fans and help promote the race in other parts of the world," said Tafi.
Tafi said he has been putting good words in for the Tour de Langkawi since joining CSC late last year. "Hopefully, the management will change their minds and head for Malaysia after the Australian assignment," said Tafi.
Tafi also met with First Cartel's executive chairman Datuk Wan Lokman Dato' Paduka Wan Ibrahim, detailing his racing career and future plans to help the sport grow in Malaysia and Asia.
"It's good that cycling is fast becoming a global sport. Gone were the days where the sport and major races were only confined in Europe. Tour de Langkawi has done wonderful things to the sport, more European and topprofessionals are now coming over to race in this part of the world and it certainly helps popularise the sport," said Tafi.
Tafi himself admitted that having ridden in Malaysia since 1997 when Mapei made its debut in the race, he had developed a liking for Malaysia, so much so that he regards Malaysia as his second home. "I feel comfortable whenever I'm here. The people, the culture and the country itself, it's a mix of many exciting things", he said.
"The exceptional organisation of the race has put Malaysia in good light. As such, I would, with open hearts, continue to promote the race in Europe and at the same, help turn Asia into another cycling haven."
On his future racing plans Tafi said as for now, he would focus his attention on helping CSC and winning a few more classic races. (courtesy of cyclingnews.com)
It appears as if Andrea will repeat his 2002 early season schedule with another appearance at the Tour Down Under. This event really seemed to get Andrea off to a flying start in the spring classics so that's hopefully a good omen.
The CSC Team had their presentation on Saturday, December 28 in Herning, Denmark. Italian rider Andrea Tafi is one of the team's new acquisitions for the 2003 season. Tafi told the audience that he chose to sign with Team CSC because he believes that CSC is the team that will give him the best chances in the spring classics. Tafi further said that he intends to prioritize the same races that he has done in his past years with the Mapei squad. In spite of Tafi being 36 years old, he still experiences absolutely no difficulties with finding the needed motivation. He plans to win races for the sake of the whole team and in order to give Danish cycling fans some great moments to enjoy. He further intends to let younger team members profit from his many years of experience with cycling.