March 8, 2020 / 2:37 PM / 20 days ago

Cycling-Paris-Nice gets underway amid coronavirus fears

PLAISIR, France, March 8 (Reuters) - The Paris-Nice stage race got underway under tight scrutiny amid coronavirus fears on Sunday as contact with the riders was kept to the bare minimum.

Fans were not allowed near the team buses at the start of the 154-km stage around Plaisir, 30km west of Paris, and a maxmimum of two teams will be sharing hotels throughout the weeklong race.

The pre-race news conference was cancelled and there was no post-stage press involvement apart from a brief broadcast interview with stage winner Maximilian Schachmann of Germany.

Schachmann won a four-man sprint to take the overall lead going into Monday’s second stage.

Riders have also been asked by organisers to avoid taking selfies with fans and giving autographs.

Seven World Tour (Elite) teams pulled out over coronavirus fears and organisers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) voted in two other outfits to partly make up for the absence of riders such as defending champion Egan Bernal.

Sixteen people have died from coronavirus in France, the head of the country’s public health service said on Saturday, while there have been 949 confirmed cases.

Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis

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