World champion Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) was among the latest batch of riders to pull out of Paris-Nice before the race finished on Saturday. The Dane didn't take the start of stage 7, citing his country's measures against Covid-19 coronavirus as a reason for doing so.
Pedersen has been active all week in France, working on behalf of his Trek teammates on numerous stages so far. Trek leader Vincenzo Nibali lies sixth overall, 1:18 off the lead, ahead of the final day of racing.
"As a team, we always said that we would respect the authorities in this emergency," said Pedersen. "My country has asked that all Danish nationals go home as soon as possible, so in agreement with the team I'm not taking the start this morning to respect this decision.
"It is sad to leave my teammates just before the final stage, but we believe that respecting authorities is what we have to do. I hope that by racing in these days we gave relief to many cycling fans."
Denmark is closing its borders for non-nationals on midday Saturday, the government announced on Friday evening. The country's borders will effectively remain closed until April 13, with Danish citizens encouraged to return as its travel advisory recommends against unnecessary travel to any other country.
"We are in uncharted territory. We are in the middle of something none of us have faced before," said Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.
"Right now, I know that the overall list of measures is very extreme and will be seen as very extreme, but I am convinced that it is worth it."
The country currently has 801 confirmed cases of the virus, with two people in hospital in critical condition.
Back at Paris-Nice, Israel Start-Up Nation pulled their remaining three riders out overnight. Tom Van Asbroeck, Nils Politt and Jenthe Biermans all headed home.
"We held a firm policy of continuing racing as long as local health authorities believe it's safe," said team manager Kjell Carlström in a statement.
"But due to the escalating crisis and adhering to our policy that riders will have the final say, we feel that it will be the most responsible decision to stop racing for now."
Seven teams pulled out of the race before the start, citing concerns over the spread of coronavirus. Astana, CCC, Ineos, Jumbo-Visma, Mitchelton-Scott and UAE Team Emirates did not take the start in Plaisir.
On Friday, before the start of stage 6, Bahrain-McLaren pulled out as a precautionary measure. The race continues to a conclusion on the summit finish of Valdeblore La Colmiane on Saturday afternoon.
“It is sad to leave my teammates just before the final stage but we believe that respecting authorities is what we have to do. I hope that by racing in these days we gave relief to many cycling fans.” - @Mads__PedersenMarch 14, 2020
As we bid ( bit early ) farewell to #parisnice this evening, we wish to extend our deepest gratitude to @parisNice and @maillotjaune for a splendid organized and thrilling race. The course was demanding, the country beautiful, and the welcome - tops. Au revoir 🇫🇷#ParisNice ! pic.twitter.com/3xsuj1Gjs1March 13, 2020
Daniel joined Cyclingnews as staff writer in August 2019 after working as a freelance journalist for seven years, including time spent working for Cyclingnews and sister magazine, Procycling.
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