Doubts surrounding the running of Paris-Roubaix this spring have increased after a local politician strongly suggested the races could not go ahead in the current COVID-19 pandemic in France.
The men's race and the inaugural edition of the women's race were postponed last spring and then cancelled entirely due to restrictions at the time of the rescheduled October dates. A similar scenario is looking increasingly likely as case numbers continue to rise in France and new lockdown measures are imposed.
Michel Lalande, head of the Hauts-de-France region, appeared on the France Bleu radio station on Monday morning and was asked directly whether the races would take place on April 11.
"It's an excellent question, thanks for asking it. I promise you the scoop when there is an answer, but you can guess what it will be," he said cryptically.
When it was put to him that he didn't appear optimistic, he said: "I see the sky a little less blue..."
Race organiser ASO did not comment when contact by Cyclingnews.
The Hauts-de-France in north west France has been particularly struck by high COVID-19 case numbers in recent weeks and the entire region was place under strict lockdown on Saturday, lasting for a minimum of four weeks - the weekend after Paris-Roubaix.
Lalande struck a similar tone last October, despite the mayor of Roubaix confidently stating the races could go ahead safely. ASO outlined prospective measures to limit roadside attendance after a successful running of a rescheduled Tour de France, but the local authorities ultimately felt compelled to call it off.
The Roubaix velodrome, where the races finish, can easily be closed the the public but it is more difficult to keep fans away from the famous cobblestone sectors. However, recent campaigns in Belgium have kept numbers down during the opening Classics and the recent Paris-Nice passed through an area in lockdown e en if the final stages were moved away from central Nice to allow local residents to spend time on the Promenade des Anglais seafront.
It was pointed out to Lalande that the other cobbled Classics in Belgium - starting on Wednesday with Driedaagse De Panne - are going ahead, despite a similar rise in case numbers over the border.
"You have to explain the logic of that, with the safety measures and everything else," he said.
As Features Editor, Patrick is responsible for Cyclingnews' long-form and in-depth output. Patrick joined Cyclingnews in 2015 as a staff writer after a work experience stint that included making tea and being sent to the Tour de Langkawi. Prior to that, he studied French and Spanish at university and went on to train as a journalist. Rides his bike to work but more comfortable on a football pitch.
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