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Italian Classics legend heading back onto the pavé 20 years after winning the race

Andrea Tafi, the last Italian to win Paris-Roubaix, says he has found “a great team” as he aims to take part in the race next year, on the 20th anniversary of his victory.

The 52-year-old, who retired in 2005, revealed his ambitions last month of returning to the scene of one of the crowning moments of a career in which he won two other Monuments, the Tour of Flanders and the Tour of Lombardy.

He said he had already approached the UCI regarding inclusion in the anti-doping testing pool, which is required for six months before racing, and that he was looking to ride for a Professional Continental team.

Those discussions appear to have borne fruit, according to a report in the Belgian newspaper, Het Laatste Nieuws.

“Everyone says I’m mad,” said Tafi, “but I don’t think so. I’m following my heart. I know how difficult it will be, but I also want to see what my limits are.

“I’m not setting a target in terms of result, I want to train and see what can come out of that.

“The coming months will be hard, but it’s something I absolutely want to do.

“It’s something no-one has ever done in cycling.

“I’ve found a great team but unfortunately I can’t yet say which one.”

Besides the 18WorldTour teams which automatically gain entry to the race due to their status, organisers ASO issue wild card invitations to a number of Professional Continental teams.

Tafi, who has ridden Paris-Roubaix 13 times to date and bedsides his 1999 victory also has second- and third-placed finishes to his name said last month that he head spoken to contacts in Italy and Belgium about securing a team.

Given that two of the seven wild cards for this year’s race went to Belgian teams – Verandas Willems-Crelan and WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic – with the rest going to French outfits, that may help somewhat with trying to second-guess their identity.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.