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Andrea Tafi’s dream of racing the 2019 Paris-Roubaix is over, after the 52-year-old broke his collarbone in a local race in Tuscany over the weekend.
In October 2018 the Italian announced his intention to come out of retirement and race the French Monument on the 20th anniversary of his 1999 victory. Tafi wasn’t able to find a team that would give him a spot in the race, but he didn’t abandon his plan entirely.
Cyclingnews reports that the UCI and Paris-Roubaix organiser ASO had agreed to let Tafi start riding the race route a few minutes ahead of the race. His plan was to hold off the race for as long as possible. But after crashing on Saturday, that backup plan is out the window as well.
“Perhaps I wasn’t destined to ride Paris-Roubaix one last time,” Tafi told Cyclingnews. “Incredibly this is the first fracture I’ve ever suffered.
“It’s a pity but life goes on. Cycling has taught me that you have to always fight on after every adversity. I’ve sacrificed five months of my life to train hard and be ready to race. I was ready but now I can only lick my wounds and look to the future. But I’ve no regrets.”
Tafi told Cyclingnews that, had it been a “normal” bike race he was training for, he might have had time to recover. But a month wasn’t long enough to recover sufficiently for the gruelling cobblestones of the “Hell of the North”.
Tafi’s plan to race one of the world’s hardest one-day races, as a 52-year-old, attracted considerable surprise from many, and criticism from some. Among those against the idea was Tafi’s former teammate (and two-time world champion) Paolo Bettini.
“To Andrea I say: I hope you do not ride — you have to do more in life at age 52,” Bettini told Gazzetta dello Sport in November last year. “His action has gotten media attention, but it would be much better that he thinks about giving an opportunity to a young person. In doing so, he steals somebody’s place.”
Tafi has since said told the media he was hurt by such criticism, saying that he never wanted to take the place of a younger rider; rather that he just “wanted to race for one more day” and show everyone that it’s possible to ride and race when you’re over 40.
Tafi will still attend the 2019 Paris-Roubaix as a VIP guest.