By Tony Szurly
had a chance to visit with Team CSCís Italian star Andrea Tafi 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 teamís 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 dayís 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 Salansonís
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 Chavanelís performance in the
upcoming Tour, Weltz said that sometimes things like this make a person even
Andrea said he was happy to be back racing in the United States; he hadnít
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 Andreaís
English, it was great to finally speak to him in English and not French like the
last couple of times I saw him. 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).
Johnny Weltz speaks Italian and Joseph, one of the team soigneurs, is Italian.
I guess when youíve 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 didnít 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. With his display of power today,
I still canít figure out why Riis does not think Tafiís horsepower would be an
asset to Tyler Hamiltonís 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 Jittery Joeís 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,
couldnít 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 next to Julianís
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.
Visit Tony's excellent Andrea Tafi website "Io Tifo Tafi"