A ROUBAIX FANTASY
Every professional athlete has a competitive streak, a desire to be the best. It’s unlikely that ever completely goes away – even if you have been out of the sport for 14 years as former Mapei rider, Andrea Ta!i has. It’s probably why the 52-year-old Italian, who has kept his appetite for competition whetted in retirement by racing Masters events near his home in Tuscany, is now bidding to return to Paris-Roubaix next April, 20 years after he won there. At the time we went to press he claimed he had found a team to race with.
Aside from a nostalgic desire to reignite feelings from his professional heyday, why does Ta!i want to race Roubaix again? Matteo Tosatto, at 40, is the oldest starter Roubaix has had in the last !ive years, while even the oldest winner, Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle, at 38, was still 14 years younger than Ta!i is now. His age alone indicates he will not make the !inish, and for a rider who also won Lombardia and Flanders and whose nickname was ‘the Gladiator,’ that can’t be an enticing prospect, or one that will soothe his competitive side.
A 52-year-old starter in Roubaix would undoubtedly bring any team exposure, so it’s easy to see why sponsors would be thrilled by the inches of column space Ta!i would generate. But cycling is a sport, and Roubaix is one of its most prized possessions. Places should be earned, not handed out as a commemorative gesture. At a time when riders !ind themselves discarded, sometimes before their careers have even begun, handing out team spots so freely seems even more of a waste.
Sophie Hurcom is sta f writer at Procycling