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Green light for Paris-Nice despite coronavirus fears

The French sport minister said Paris-Nice will be allowed to be held, ending worries for now that the coronavirus could derail the 'Race to the Sun'

The Race to the Sun is a go.

France’s sport minister confirmed Tuesday that Paris-Nice, set to run from Sunday to March 15, has been cleared despite growing fears in France over the spread of the coronavirus.

The news comes a day after RCS Sport assured teams that its upcoming races in March — Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo — are being held as scheduled.

The coronavirus continues to challenge governments and health authorities across Europe. Following outbreaks in Italy and Spain, France is also seeing an uptick in cases.

Following the cancellation of the UAE Tour and quarantine of riders and staffers last week in the United Arab Emirates, many are fearing that the European racing calendar could be equally impacted.

France has already taken steps to try to control the spread of the virus. It has banned indoor gatherings of more than 5,000 people, and it’s likely that a Champions League soccer match this weekend in Paris will be played without fans in the stadium. A half-marathon in Paris was also canceled, and workers at the Louvre Museum have refused to work for fear of contagion.

Roxana Maracineanu, France’s minister of sport, said Paris-Nice will be allowed to be contested because the race draws relatively thin crowds and that the route does not pass through affected areas as it traces its way from the outskirts of the French capital to the French Riviera.

“This is an international event, but the majority of the teams are tested,” she said Tuesday in a press conference. “There is little audience along the race, with a maximum of 3,000 people expected, and the event does not pass through risk areas in France.”

UCI president David Lappartient told reporters Sunday that the cycling governing body is working with authorities and race organizers to try to assure that races can be held, always with the caveat that public health and safety can be assured.

“The decision remains in the capacity of the health authorities to decide what is the best decision,” Lappartient said Sunday in Berlin. “From our side, we continue to support the events to take place in Italy. The public authorities can decide to stop some sport events, but so far, this does not seem to be the case. So that is why, as of today, these races remain in the UCI calendar.”