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Special coronavirus measures at Paris-Nice – but race will go ahead

Seven teams have withdrawn but race has also gained high profile riders who had planned to race in Italy

With Italian stage race Tirreno-Adriatico postponed due to concerns about coronavirus Covid-19, there had been some doubt over whether its French cousin, Paris-Nice, would take place this coming week. While a number of teams have decided to pull out, race organisers will adopt special measures to combat the spread of the virus and the race will go ahead.

Tirreno-Adriatico and several other major races were postponed earlier this week when the Italian government responded to the coronavirus situation by decreeing that sporting events could only take place without the presence of the public.

In contrast, the French ministry for sport has given the go-ahead for Paris-Nice to take place – although it did add that local governments had the right to impose restrictions should matters develop.

Many teams have nevertheless refused to take part. So far seven have withdrawn: CCC, INEOS, Mitchelton-Scott, Movistar, Astana, UAE Team Emirates and Jumbo-Visma.

Race organisers ASO have responded by extending invitations to two Pro Continental teams – Circus-Groupe Gobert and B&B Hotels-Vital Concept – and by increasing maximum team sizes from seven riders to eight.

While many big names will be absent, the race has gained several who had originally planned to race in Italy, including Vincenzo Nibali, Romain Bardet and Peter Sagan.

In a statement earlier in the week, cycling’s governing body, the UCI, said that race organisers would have to take a number of measures to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading further.

These include increasing the distance between the public and riders, particularly in the start and finish zones; limiting the number of teams staying in each hotel; and adopting certain hygiene measures. The last of those includes avoiding the use of the same pen when riders sign in at the beginning of the race.

It’s also been reported that there will be strict rules about interviewing riders and that there will be no contact between riders and public figures on the podium.

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