Stage Hunter: Andrea Tafi
– Reported by Gazzetta dello Sport –
MILAN, 4 July 2002 – “I will definetely race for one more year – the Italian Gladiator said to Gazzetta.it – because I’m convinced that I can do much more. I have three objectives, two immediate and one for next season: win at least one important race between August and September, the period in which I traditionally ride well, wear the Maglia Azzura (Italian National Team jersey) agian this October, and conquer another Roubaix after that of ’99”.
Tafi made these announcements close to the Tour de France, for him it represents a rebirth after two years of absence, not selected by his team in 2000 and forced to miss the Tour for health reasons last year. “I’ve never won a stage at a Grand Tour and it would please me much to cure this malediction: at the Tour I was close in ’98, in Montauban, when Durand took the stage in front of me after a long break. I will redeem myself this year, in all of the stages that are not time trials or high mountains: like always, there are occasions, especially in the first week”.
Finish lines and goals, both near and far, have convinced the Tuscan not to abandon the sport after the demise of Mapei, Tafi’s squad: “Immediately I though of quitting and also now the moral isn’t super high. I’ve grown up in this team, the team made me a professional cyclist and I’ve learned much; I can’t succeed in seeing myself wearing any other jersey than this one, but I can and I have to continue, because in cycling you have to learn to deal with change. I want to leave an indeliable mark on this sport and to do so I need to race another Roubaix. But I’m worried about what has happened and everyone must think of the consequences when a sponsor such as Mapei leaves the sport – it’s a grave signal. We need to reestablish credibility, first for the racers”.
He will play his part in a new team: “Quick Step could become a primary sponsor, I’ve already recieved several offers from other Italian teams: I will decide the best solution, the fundemental thing is to still give something”.