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Paris-Roubaix could ban spectators as coronavirus clouds gather

Cycling: 115th Paris - Roubaix 2017
Peter SAGAN (SVK)/ Zdenek STYBAR (CZE)/
Compiegne Paris - Roubaix (257Km)/
PR / pool bp © Tim De Waele
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Organisers of Paris-Roubaix are considering banning spectators from the many cobbled sectors of the race and other restrictive measures to ensure the men's and women's Classics can be held on October 25 amid a surge of COVID-19 cases in France.

The coronavirus situation has deteriorated steadily in France in recent weeks, with daily case counts far beyond the number that shuttered all racing in mid-March. In Compiègne where the men's race starts, a third of students tested for COVID-19 at a local college were positive for the virus.

The seven-day average for the Oise department where the race starts was 109 per 100,000 residents while the Nord department of the Roubaix vélodrome is the nearing the highest alert level at over 200 per 100,000 residents. Overall in France 40 per cent of ICU beds are currently occupied by COVID-19 patients.

The rescheduled Amstel Gold Race and the BinckBank Tour stages in the Netherlands were recently annulled and ASO spokesman Fabrice Tiano admitted to Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad that there is concern over Paris-Roubaix.

"It is true that the current coronavirus levels are not evolving favorably, but Paris-Roubaix is set to go-ahead for the time being. Also starting in Compiègne. We have not yet decided whether the public will be admitted," Tiano said.

After France set a new record for the most new COVID-19 in 24 hours at 19,000 on Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron said new restrictions would be put in place where the virus is most prevalent including closures of cafés and bars.

The race is already prohibited from allowing spectators on four of the most popular cobbled sections and have limited the number of attendees in the Roubaix Vélodrome at the finish to 1,000 including riders and staff.

The Vuelta a España is less under threat but also in question as the coronavirus case counts in Spain are even higher than in France, in particular in Madrid, where the final stage is due to be held on November 8, although the less densely populated regions such as the Basque Country, Aragon, Asturias, Cantabria and Castilla y Leon are less affected.