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Paris-Nice stage 6 and coronavirus - live updates

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Today's 161km stage from Sorgues to Apt is due to start at 12.15 local time, but it remains to be seen how many teams line up and whether Paris-Nice indeed goes ahead. We understand that several teams are ready to pull out of the race due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Bahrain-McLaren have become the first team to confirm that they have withdrawn from Paris-Nice, though it appears there will be several more to follow suit. 

"Team Bahrain McLaren has with regret today withdrawn from the 2020 Paris-Nice road race," reads the statement just issued.

"Following consultation with the team’s riders, medical staff and other stakeholders, and in light of the rapidly escalating public health risks associated with the Covid-19 virus, the decision has been taken to repatriate all team personnel to their homes as soon as possible. Rolling restrictions on movement across Europe and the health of the entire team mean this precautionary measure is an immediate priority."

Reports in France, meanwhile, suggest that Paris-Nice will conclude tomorrow rather than Sunday as originally planned, in light of the stricter measures against Covid-19 that are being rolled out in the country from the beginning of next week. It is unclear how many teams will stay in the race. ASO, however, have issued no statement on the matter, and seemingly to continue to act as though this is a race like any other.

We understand that a staff member from Bora-Hansgrohe was taken to hospital by ambulance late on Thursday evening, but he was later released as medics did not believe his symptoms indicated Covid-19. Stephen Farrand will have more on this story shortly, but that incident - not to mention the growing scale of the epidemic in France and the pandemic globally - has clearly informed the decision of Bahrain-McLaren and the teams who will follow them out of the race today.

EF Pro Cycling, meanwhile, have confirmed to Cyclingnews that they will start today. Their decision to continue in Paris-Nice seems comes despite Tejay van Garderen abandoning due to US president Donald Trump's impending European travel ban and Lawson Craddock's departure due to illness yesterday. Craddock was assessed after the stage and it was found that his symptoms did not warrant screening for the coronavirus.

Stephen Farrand has more details of the situation at Bora-Hansgrohe here. The team has also issued a statement, albeit without confirming whether or not it will continue in Paris-Nice. Bora-Hansgrohe, remember, lead the race overall with Max Schachmann.

 “During the night, one of our employees displayed symptoms of a cold. Our on-site doctor then informed the race doctor, according to the official guidelines set down by the organiser, as well as current international guidelines,” reads the statement. “The local authorities then carried out an examination, which showed that the employee did not display any typical symptoms that would indicate a Covid-19 infection. According to the authorities, no further measures are necessary. The team has nevertheless decided to isolate the employee, as a precautionary step, and to continue actively monitoring the situation in order ensure maximum safety for all concerned.”

Max Schachmann in yellow

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Het Nieuwsblad is reporting that after the riders' association the CPA voiced concerns yesterday evening, the teams at Paris-Nice held a vote on whether to continue or not. 11 voted to race on, 5 voted against. The compromised reached, per Het Nieuwsblad, is that the race will conclude atop La Colmiane on Saturday and that Sunday's finale in Nice will not take place, though we await a statement from ASO on the matter.  

For context: Mitchelton-Scott, Team Ineos, Astana Pro Team, CCC Team, Movistar, Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates declined to start Paris-Nice and Bahrain-McLaren's withdrawal means that eight WorldTour teams have now opted out of the race. 

Elsewhere, races including Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo, the Giro di Sicilia, the Volta a Catalunya, the Trofeo Binda, Ronde van Drenthe, the Tour de Bretagne, Nokere Koerse, Bredene Koksijde Classic, Driedaagse Brugge-De Pannne, the E3 BinckBank Classic and Gent-Wevelgem have all been postponed or cancelled. 

In France, the top two divisions of the football league have been suspended with immediate effect, while all schools and universities will close in France from Monday and all over-70s have been urged to stay at home, as part of new measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 unveiled by President Macron last night.

And yet, ASO presses on with trying to bring Paris-Nice to a conclusion, for reasons best known only to themselves (though we can take a pretty good guess). 

Elsewhere, there are some more races to add to the ongoing list of cancellations and postponements. The Route Adelie and GP Denain in France, the Triptyque des Monts et Chateaux in Belgium and the Tour of Turkey have all been cancelled.

ASO has confirmed that Sunday's final stage of Paris-Nice will not take place, but, as reported, they plan to hold today's stage to Apt and tomorrow's to La Colmiane as planned. "In consultation with the authorities, the Union Cycliste Internationale and the city of Nice, the organisers of Paris-Nice have decided to place the final arrival of the event tomorrow at the end of the 7th stage at Valdeblore la Colmiane. This decision, taken in light of the increased battle against the spread of the coronavirus epidemic thus cancels the final stage, which should have taken place around Nice on Sunday, March 15."

Groupama-FDJ Marc Madiot has welcomed the decision to continue racing, according to Sud Ouest. “I think it’s good to continue. We can’t give in to panic,” Madiot said. “And the President didn’t say that everything needed to stop. And if the [local government] prefects tell us we can continue, I don’t see why we would stop. That said, if one of my riders said to me that he wanted to go home, I wouldn’t oppose it.”

While Dr. Madiot prescribes “not panicking,” an unnamed rider approached by Sud Ouest had a more nuanced view. “Personally, I’m always happy to race, but we recognise that the sensible thing would be not to do it, out of a sense of responsibility. And also, all of sport has stopped. We’re going to look like assholes if we continue…”

Meanwhile, the remaining teams at Paris-Nice are gathering to sign on in Sorgues. It looks as though Bahrain-McLaren are the only team to have pulled out ahead of today's stage, though we await confirmation. There are still 25 minutes before the roll out.

Away from Paris-Nice, Hungarian MP Máriusz Révész. has announced that the 2020 Giro d'Italia Grande Partenza will not take place on the planned date of May 9. Révész is Government Commissioner for an Active Hungary and president of the local organising committee. In a social media posting on Friday morning, Révész said that he had held talks with the Giro organisation on Thursday following Hungary's declaration of a state of emergency and its ban on travel from Italy. The new measures make "it impossible to organize international events." Révész added that "the aim of both parties is to change the contract in order to start from Hungary at a later date." 

(Image credit: RCS Sport)

We have contacted RCS Sport for confirmation of the apparent postponement of the Grande Partenza of the 2020 Giro. For the time being, the only pronouncement on the matter has come from the president of the local organising committee's social media post. Yesterday, Giro director Mauro Vegni floated the prospect of finding an alternative date for the race, but he also noted that RCS Sport would wait and see the lie of the land on April 3, the planned end date for Italy's current phase of lockdown.

The Paris-Nice peloton is in the neutralised zone at the start of stage 6, minus the entire Bahrain-McLaren team, as well as Israel Start-Up Nation duo Rudy Barbier and Krists Neilands, Elia Viviani (Cofidis), Jasper De Buyst (Lotto Soudal) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal).

-161km

25 years on from Jean-Marie Leblanc's ill-judged pronouncement of "The show must go on," it seems a similar mentality continues to reign at the organisation. Stage 6 of Paris-Nice gets underway despite the escalating coronavirus crisis in France and beyond.  

Today's undulating stage features six classified climbs. 

(Image credit: ASO)

The top 20 of Paris-Nice looks slightly different following the departures of 6th-placed Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida) and 16th-placed Krists Neilands (Israel Start-Up Nation). The revised provisional standings are as follows:

1          Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe   18:49:00

2          Soren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb       0:00:58

3          Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe          0:01:01

4          Nils Politt (Ger) Israel Start-Up Nation        0:01:05

5          Sergio Andres Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Pro Cycling            0:01:06

6          Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Team Sunweb    0:01:11

7          Mads Schmidt Wurtz (Den) Israel Start-Up Nation       

8          Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) NTT Pro Cycling      0:01:15

9          Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb     0:01:16

10        Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo          0:01:18

11        Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo        0:01:28

12        Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:01:29

13        Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:01:30

14        Tanel Kangert (Est) EF Pro Cycling 0:01:31

15        Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe           0:01:36

16        Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-Quickstep     0:02:04

17        Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe        0:02:06

18        Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Lotto Soudal  0:02:10

19        Fabien Doubey (Fra) Circus-Wanty Gobert            0:02:15

20        Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-Quickstep      0:02:16

RCS Sport will issue a statement shortly regarding the 2020 Giro d'Italia and the local organising committee president Máriusz Révész's pronouncement that the Budapest Grande Partenza has been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

-154km

Deceuninck-QuickStep are setting a brisk tempo and have split the peloton into echelons early on. Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) is among the riders who have missed the split.

-150km

There has been a general regrouping at Paris-Nice, albeit a tentative one. The pace is very high as the race swings into a section of tailwind.

-145km

Total-Direct Energie take up the reins at the head of the peloton on the approach to the day's first climb, the category 2 Côte de Saumane-de-Vaucluse (4.2km at 5.1%).

Lilian Calmejane (Total Direct Energie) has attacked off the front of the peloton with Mads Padersen (Trek-Segafredo) in pursuit. 

-140km

Calmejane and Pedersen have been brought back by the peloton. 

The peloton is on the climb of the Côte de Saumane-de-Vaucluse, with Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) leading the way.

-135km

 Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) have forged clear, opening a small gap over the peloton.

Latour and Edet have a lead of 20 seconds over a reduced peloton featuring yellow jersey Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe). The rest of the bunch is a minute down on the two leaders. 

-130km

Nicolas Edet led Latour over the top of the Côte de Saumane-de-Vaucluse. Jonathan Hivert (Total-Direct Energie) picked up third place at the head of the yellow jersey group.

French prime minister Edouard Philippe has just announced that gatherings of more than 100 people are prohibited in France with immediate effect. One imagines that this means Paris-Nice cannot continue beyond today. Then again, one already imagined at various points over the past week that ASO would pull the plug on this event, like so many organisers have done across Europe and beyond. 

-123km

The peloton has regrouped at Paris-Nice, incidentally. There are four riders off the front - Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept), Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ), Anthony Perez (Cofidis) and Niccolo Bonifazio (Total Direct Energie) - with a gathering of 111 riders some 20 seconds behind them.

Bonifazio has been dropped by the break, leaving three riders with a lead of half a minute over the peloton on the approach to the day's second climb, the category 2 Col de Murs (10.4km at 4.3%).

Coquard, Kung and Perez lead by 15 seconds on the Col de Murs, while the peloton is breaking up once again behind them. 

-115km

Bryan Coquard has been dropped from the break, leaving Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ) and Anthony Perez (Cofidis) with a lead of 15 seconds over the yellow jersey group.

We're still awaiting a formal statement from RCS Sport, but the news emanating from Hungary is clear: the 2020 Giro d'Italia will not start in Budapest on May 9. The question now, at least in the best-case scenario, is whether the 2020 Giro starts from an Italian location on May 9 or from Budapest at a later date. And, of course, there is the weighty question of whether the 2020 Giro will take place at all. Read more here.

The 2020 Giro d'Italia was scheduled to start in Hungary

(Image credit: RCS Sport)

-110

The band plays on at Paris-Nice. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), Winner Anacona (Arkea-Samsic), Alexis Gougeard (AG2r La Mondiale) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) bridged across to Anthony Perez (Cofidis) and Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) on the upper reaches of the Col de Murs. 

Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) has also made it across to this move, leaving a break of seven with a lead of 25 seconds on the peloton over the top of the Col de Murs. 

Situation:

Break:

Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), Winner Anacona (Arkea-Samsic), Alexis Gougeard, Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), Nicolas Edet, Anthony Perez (Cofidis) and Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ)

Peloton at 0:25

Edet led Perez over the top of the Col de Murs, incidentally.

-105km

The Bardet group has a lead of 45 seconds over the peloton on the descent of the Col de Murs at Paris-Nice. 

Two more Israel Start-Up Nation riders have abandoned. Hugo Hofstetter and Mads Schmidt have pulled out.

-97km

On the approach to the category 3 Cote de Gordes, the seven leaders have an advantage of 1:10 over the reduced yellow jersey peloton.

Before today's start, Stefan Kung spoke to reporters about the negotiations between the Paris-Nice teams and riders last night: "The outcome was that the majority of the riders of the teams wanted to continue in the race, so we will do that. Anyway, it’s not up to us riders to decide that. For sure, we are the main part of the race, but I mean it’s the authorities around us who have to decide, the ministry of health, and we trust their decisions. We are happy to race and happy to go on."

Paris-Tours, Stefan Kung

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Situation:

Break:

Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), Winner Anacona (Arkea-Samsic), Alexis Gougeard, Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), Nicolas Edet, Anthony Perez (Cofidis) and Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ)

Peloton at 1:20

Israel Start-Up Nation have confirmed that Mads Würtz Schmidt abandoned due to illness. The Dane was lying 8th overall after stage 5. 

Breaking: 2020 Giro d'Italia has been postponed

RCS Sport has issued a statement confirming that the 2020 Giro d'Italia has been postponed. A new date will be announced "no earlier than 3 April," when the current emergency measures in place in Italy are due to end. The full statement is as follows:

"In response to the spread of the coronavirus the Hungarian government has declared a state of emergency. This prohibits the organization of mass events and makes it impossible to organize international events.
 
As a consequence, the Organising Committee of the Giro d'Italia's Hungarian stages declared that the Giro’s start could not be held in Hungary at the originally scheduled time. All parties have agreed that they are determined to work together to enable the Giro d'Italia to depart from Hungary at a later time.
 
RCS Sport, having taken note of the international and national situation, announces that the date of the 2020 Giro d’Italia is thereby postponed. 
The new date will be announced no earlier than 3 April when the provisions of the D.P.C.M. (Decreto del Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri della Repubblica Italiana – Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic) of 4 March 2020 will end, and only after having consulted with the appropriate representatives of the Italian Government, local and territorial authorities and Italian and international sports institutions."

The 2020 Giro d'Italia was scheduled to start in Hungary

(Image credit: RCS Sport)

Meanwhile, there are 83km remaining at a Paris-Nice, whose continuation seems almost a bizarre footnote to the day's news elsewhere. Romain Bardet and his breakaway companions have a lead of 1:30 on the bunch.

The Giro d'Italia has taken place every year since 1909, save for two hiatuses due to World War. There was no Giro from 1915-1918 nor from 1941-1945. Just like UEFA, which will convene on Tuesday to redraw the European footballing calendar for this year (and next), the UCI will eventually have to draw up a contingency plan for the remainder of the cycling season. Though, given the obvious uncertainty over the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic and the already squeezed nature of the calendar, there is perhaps little firm action that can be taken right now bar the suspension of upcoming events.

You can read more on the postponement of the 2020 Giro d'Italia here.

-70km

Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT) has abandoned Paris-Nice. The Italian, winner of stage 2, was wearing the green jersey.

Situation:

Break:

Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), Winner Anacona (Arkea-Samsic), Alexis Gougeard, Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), Nicolas Edet, Anthony Perez (Cofidis) and Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ)

Peloton at 1:25

-65km

A mechanical problem for Stefan Kung in the break, who gets a bike change and chases back on. 1:11 the gap to the bunch, where Bora-Hansgrohe and Deceuninck-QuickStep are setting the pace.

The escapees are now on the category 3 Col du Pointu (3.5km at 5.4%).

The B&B Hotels-Vital Concept duo of Cyril Guatier and Kevin Reza have abandoned Paris-Nice. 

-61km

Nicolas Edet leads the break over the top of the Col du Pointu. Perez is second, ad Kung third. The Deceuninck-QuickStep-led peloton is 1:25 behind.

-57km

The peloton has begun to line out as the pace rises. 1:20 is the gap to the escapees. 

Eurosport are reporting that Israel Start-Up Nation will leave Paris-Nice after today's stage, regardless of whether the race continues tomorrow or not. That would bring to nine the running tally of WorldTour teams to withdraw from the event. 

The break are approaching the finish town of Apt for the first time, where they will tackle the first of two uphill intermediate sprints. 

-50km

Break:

Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), Winner Anacona (Arkea-Samsic), Alexis Gougeard, Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), Nicolas Edet, Anthony Perez (Cofidis) and Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ)

Peloton at 0:56

The break splinters as the road climbs towards the sprint at Apt, with Nicolas Edet and Romain Bardet forging clear of their erstwhile companions.

-47km

Edet leads Bardet through the intermediate sprint. Winner Anacona gives chase and looks to have limited the damage, with Stefan Kung not far behind. 

Nikias Arndt (Sunweb) attacked from the bunch on that climb to the sprint, and he is picking off the remnants of the break. He is currently with Pedersen and Perez in the third group on the road.

-43km

Bardet and Edet have 1:40 in hand on the peloton, with the fragments of the break in between.

Romain Bardet and Nicolas Edet have 27 seconds on Winner Anacona, Alexis Gougeard Stefan Kung as they begin the ascent of the category 2 Cote de Caseneuve. The bunch is at 1:26.

-40km

Break:

Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis)

Chasers 1 at 0:25:

Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ), Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale), Winner Anacona (Arkea-Samsic)

Chasers 2 at 0:40

Nikias Arndt (Sunweb), Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), Anthony Perez (Cofidis)

Peloton at 1:30

Soren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb), second on GC, has attacked from the bunch on the Cote de Caseneuve. He is bridging up to his teammate Arndt.

Andersen bridges up to Arndt, Anacona and Kung. Arndt puts in a long shift on the front before swinging over. His efforts split this chase group, leaving only Andersen and Anacona in pursuit of the two leaders...

-38km

Andersen drops Anacona and he is now in lone pursuit of Bardet and Edet on the upper reaches of the Cote de Caseneuve.

Andersen began the day 58 seconds down on Schachmann but he now has more than a minute on the bunch and is the virtual overall leader. 

-37km

Break:

Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale)

Chaser at 0:20:

Soren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb)

Peloton at 1:30

Edet and Bardet are over the top of the Cote de Caseneuve with a lead of 20 seconds on Andersen. A very reduced peloton is at 1:30, with Deceuninck-QuickStep and Bora-Hansgrohe setting the tempo.

-34km

Soren Kragh Andersen is almost within touching distance of Bardet and Edet. The peloton is at 1:10.

Deceuninck-QuickStep are prominent in upping the pace at the head of the bunch for Julian Alaphilippe's ambitions of a stage win. This is playing into the hands of former QuickStep man Max Schachmann, as they have closed the gap on the leaders to 50 seconds...

-32km

Break:

Soren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb), Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis)

Peloton at 0:51

Andersen drives on the pace in front, with Bardet and Edet in tow. Tim Declercq and Kasper Asgreen lead the reduced peloton for Deceuninck-QuickStep. 53 seconds the gap.

There is one classified climb left on the agenda, the category 2 Cote d' Auribeau (4.5km at 5.8%), whose summit comes with 11km remaining. A repeat of the uphill intermediate sprint in Apt follows with 3.5km to go, before the fast drop to the finish line.

-27km

Deceuninck-QuickStep are at the head of the bunch en masse for Alaphilippe, who will surely find this finale to his liking. 48 seconds the gap to the three leaders.

The big news of the day, of course, is the postponement of the 2020 Giro d'Italia due to the Covid-19 pandemic. RCS Sport will look for an alternative date, but it is too soon to say when that might be, far less whether that will prove feasible. 

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As things stand, Paris-Nice is due to conclude tomorrow at La Colmiane following the cancellation of Sunday's final stage. But the French government has since barred public gatherings of 100 people or more with immediate effect, which surely means Paris-Nice should be brought to a conclusion once this stage finishes. 

-24km

Bardet, Edet and Andersen's lead is beginning to crumble. The gap is down to half a minute.

-21km

Soren Kragh Andersen keeps raging against the odds at the head of the race, and he drives the pace on in the three-man break, 34 seconds clear of the peloton.

The escapees are on the long false flat that serves as a preamble to the Cote d' Auribeau proper, which gets underway with 16km or so to go.

-18km

23 seconds the advantage for Andersen, Edet and Bardet as they approach the
Cote d' Auribeau.

-17.5km

Soren Kragh Andersen and Romain Bardet have distanced Nicolas Edet as the
Cote d' Auribeau rears up in earnest. The 4.5km climb has an average gradient of 5.8%.  24 seconds the gap to the bunch.

The peloton is splintering into shards on the Cote d' Auribeau. Schachmann has just one teammate left for company in the reduced yellow jersey group, Felix Grossschartner.

-16km

Soren Kragh Andersen and Romain Bardet have 19 seconds in hand on the Bob Jungels-led peloton.

-15.5km

Soren Kragh Andersen has dropped Romain Bardet and he presses on alone on the Cote d' Auribeau, with a lead of 19 seconds on the peloton.

There are shades of Soren Kragh Andersen's stirring but ultimately unsuccessful final day effort on the Alto do Malhao on last year's Volta ao Algarve about this remarkable display from the Dane.

Paris-Tours, Soren Kragh Andersen

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

-14.5km

Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) attacks from the peloton. Tiesj Benoot (Sunweb) goes with him. The yellow jersey group is down to 20 or so riders.

-14km

Andersen has 20 seconds on the yellow jersey group, with his teammate Benoot and Nibali in between. Another Sunweb man, Michael Matthews, is in the reduced yellow jersey group, sitting on Schachmann's wheel.

Benoot is collaborating with Nibali, and they look like bridging up to Andersen. Bob Jungels, previously struggling, has returned to the front of the yellow jersey group on behalf of Alaphilippe.

-13.5km

Nibali can no longer follow Benoot, and he relents. Benoot has bridged across to Andersen. The Sunweb tandem has a lead of 25 seconds at the head of the race as they crest the top of the Cote d' Auribeau.

Julian Alaphilippe accelerates near the top of the Cote d' Auribeau and only a very select group can follow, including Schachmann, Matthews, Sergio Higuita, Nairo Quintana and Thibaut Pinot.

-12.5km

Tiesj Benoot has distanced his tiring teammate Andersen, and the Belgian presses on alone at the head of the race. Benoot began the day 1:11 off Schachmann's yellow jersey. He has a lead of 18 seconds on the yellow jersey group.

-12km

Nibali is caught by the yellow jersey group. Rudy Molard senses a lull and counter-attacks. Guillaume Martin goes with him, but then Alaphilippe leads the group back up to them. Benoot, meanwhile, is still 18 seconds clear.

-10km

The yellow jersey group keeps breaking and reforming on the descent off the Cote d' Auribeau. Jungels has now sallied off the front in the company of Grossschartner. Benoot remains the lone leader, 20 seconds in front. 

Guillaume Martin goes again from the yellow jersey group, with Matthews on his wheel. They are soon brought to heel again by Alaphilippe. Benoot's lead is 22 seconds...

-8km

Benoot has 25 seconds on the yellow jersey group, with Jungels and Grossschartner somewhere in between. 

-7km

Benoot has 17 seconds on Grossschartner and Jungels, and 35 seconds on the yellow jersey group.

-5km

Benoot has 18 seconds on Jungels and Grosschartner, and 32 seconds on the yellow jersey group. The short climb to the intermediate sprint, which tops out just over 3km from the finish, will be crucial.

-4km

Benoot is on that climb. He lifts himself from the saddle with a buffer of 18 seconds on the chasers, where Grossschartner is content to sit on Jungels wheel. The yellow jersey group is at 35 seconds.

Sergio Higuita hits the front of the yellow jersey group as they hit the foot of the climb. 

Higuita leads, followed by Nibali, Schachmann, Alaphilippe and Quintana. They are 35 seconds behind Benoot.

In between, Jungels is inching away from Grossschartner, but he is not drawing much closer to the lone leader Benoot.

Jungels and Grossschartner are about to be caught by Higuita, Schachmann et al. Benoot is 30 seconds clear in front.

-3km

Benoot picks up the 3-second time bonus atop the climb and drops towards the finish in Apt. 

Higuita accelerates in the chasing group to take the 1-second bonus for third. Jungels was second across the line, picking up 2 seconds.

-2.5km

Benoot looks destined to claim stage victory. His teammate Michael Matthews, meanwhile, is still in contact with Schachmann, Higuita et al in the yellow jersey group, 32 seconds behind.

-1.5km

Bob Jungels leads the chasing group, 27 seconds down on Benoot. Surely he can't bring it all back for Alaphilippe...

-1km

Tiesj Benoot hits the flamme rouge with 27 seconds in hand on the yellow jersey group.

Benoot is in the streets of Apt and on the final uphill section towards the line. Meanwhile, Max Schachmann appears to have suffered a mechanical issue in the final kilometre... He has lost contact with the chasing group...

Tiesj Benoot (Sunweb) wins stage 6 of Paris-Nice.

Michael Matthews (Sunweb) wins the sprint for second place ahead of Sergio Higuita (EF Pro Cycling) at 20 seconds or so.

Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) comes home 40 seconds down. He lost 20 seconds or so to Higuita after seemingly slipping his chain.

Max Schachmann crashed on the descent. The television images are now showing a replay of his crash. He overshot a left hand bend and slammed into the barriers. He remounted remarkably quickly in the circumstances to limit his losses. It remains to be seen if the commissaires award him the same time as Higuita et al. The incident was in the final 3km, so in theory, he should not concede anything beyond the time bonus to Higuita.

Regardless, Max Schachmann retains the yellow jersey. He may even have won Paris-Nice. It's still unclear if tomorrow's planned final stage can go ahead in light of the new restrictions on public gatherings in France due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Result

1          Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Team Sunweb      3:57:02

2          Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb        0:00:22

3          Sergio Andres Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Pro Cycling

4          Bob Jungels (Lux) Deceuninck-Quickstep    0:00:23

5          Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-Quickstep       

6          Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo           0:00:26

7          Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ   0:00:29

8          Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis        

9          Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ   

10        Nairo Quintana (Col) Team Arkea-Samsic   

General classification

1          Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe       22:46:42

2          Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Team Sunweb      0:00:18

3          Sergio Andres Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Pro Cycling 0:00:43

4          Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe  0:00:50

5          Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb        0:00:52

6          Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo           0:01:04

7          Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ    0:01:18

8          Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ   0:01:19

9          Tanel Kangert (Est) EF Pro Cycling  0:01:34

10        Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-Quickstep        0:01:47

Tiesj Benoot speaks: "Yeah it was a really hard day, full gas from the start. QuickStep immediately started to pull behind. I knew that was a good situation for me, I had really good legs, and I like the days where you have to push all day and today was a day like this. I came in a really situation. I went in the counter attack with Nibali and there I felt I still had something left, so I went full with him and then alone when there was 10-15k to the finish.

"I’m really happy to give a victory to the team now. We did a really good preparation with some really nice team camps. We put a lot of effort into the Classics team. Unfortunately we cannot rude the Classics this year but I’m sure in the future we can still achieve some nice things."

Tiesj Benoot (Sunweb) on the attack in Paris-Nice stage 6

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Israel Start-Up Nation have confirmed reports that they have withdrawn from Paris-Nice following today's stage. It remains to be seen if tomorrow's stage to La Colmiane will go ahead in light of the latest precautions against the spread of Covid-19 in France.

Yellow jersey Max Schachmann explains his crash. “I crashed at 800 metres to go. The race was full on and the guys where going full gas down. But we didn’t see the descent before, and it was really crazy. I had a little gap and I came back fast but I made a mistake. It was crazy,” says Schachmann, who acknowledges that Saturday’s final stage (if it happens…) will not be straightforward. “Definitely not but I felt good on the last long climb today. We rode to defend today but there's one day to go and so it'll be all out.”

Paris Nice 2020 - 78th Edition - 6th stage Sorgues - Apt 161,5 km - 13/03/2020 - Michael Schwarzmann (GER - Bora - Hansgrohe) - photo Nico Vereecken/PN/BettiniPhoto©2020

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The French Cycling Federation (FFC) has announced the cancellation of all cycling events on French soil due to the Covid-19 epidemic. This surely means that Paris-Nice cannot continue tomorrow. The race is run under both UCI and FFC rules.

The statement from the FFC reads: "Following the latest measures linked to the Covid-19 epidemic, the Fédération Française de Cyclisme announces the cancellation of all cycling events, in all disciplines and all categories, in French territory until further notice.”

Meanwhile, the regulations of Paris-Nice state the FFC's jurisdiction clearly: "The 78th Paris-Nice is organised by TDF Sport and Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) under the rules of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the Fédération Française de Cyclisme (FFC) and the Ligue Nationale de Cyclisme (LNC)."

We await an update from ASO, but it seems inevitable that Paris-Nice has reached its conclusion - ahead of time, no doubt, for ASO, but not before time for everybody else. 

The absurdity continues. And so, it seems, does Paris-Nice. Clement Guillou of Le Monde reports that the FFC has stated that its call for the immediate cessation of "all cycling events, all disciplines and all categories included" somehow does not include Paris-Nice. 

Romain Bardet has questioned why Paris-Nice went ahead today and why ASO plans for it to proceed tomorrow. “I deplore the lack of unity above all. Certain people left, others didn’t. We’re going to finish with maybe 30 riders. I’m asking myself where is the sense in that, looking to the rest of the population too. We’re doing our little race as though nothing was happening. It’s clear that the context is very particular…” Bardet said after the stage, according to Le Dauphiné. He expressed scepticism about plans to continue with Paris-Nice on Saturday. “I didn’t understand why it started on Friday… It’s not really our place to be on a bike when everybody is making efforts to curtail the spread of the virus.”

Romain Bardet

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

ASO have told Le Monde that "for now, the race will continue tomorrow." Even the August National Golf Club, incidentally, is now reading the room in a way that the Paris-Nice and Tour de France organiser seemingly cannot. Next month's Masters has been postponed.

Another race postponement to report. The Women's Tour, scheduled for June 8-13, has fallen by the wayside due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Read more here.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

You can find a report, results and pictures from today's stage of Paris-Nice here. It is still unclear if this was the final stage or not. ASO appear determined to proceed tomorrow, but we have no formal confirmation as yet, beyond their statement before today's stage, which preceding the most recent restrictions on public gatherings imposed by the French government.

APT FRANCE MARCH 13 Arrival Tiesj Benoot of Belgium and Team Sunweb Celebration during the 78th Paris Nice 2020 Stage 6 a 1615km stage from Sorgues to Apt 234m ParisNice parisnicecourse PN on March 13 2020 in Apt France Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Only 95 riders remain in Paris-Nice if the race resumes tomorrow. Nils Politt, Tom Van Asbroeck and Jenthe Biermans leave the race this evening due to Israel Start-Up Nation's withdrawal, while the following riders abandoned the race before and during today's stage:

DNS    Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal  

DNS    Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto Soudal        

DNS    Elia Viviani (Ita) Cofidis       

DNS    Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain McLaren

DNS    Pello Bilbao (Spa) Bahrain McLaren

DNS    Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain McLaren       

DNS    Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Bahrain McLaren

DNS    Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain McLaren   

DNS    Domen Novak (Slo) Bahrain McLaren         

DNS    Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain McLaren          

DNS    Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain McLaren   

DNF    Ryan Mullen (Irl) Trek-Segafredo    

DNF    Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) Bora-Hansgrohe 

DNF    Nils Eekhoff (Ned) Team Sunweb    

DNF    Niccolò Bonifazio (Ita) Total Direct Energie

DNF    Julien Simon (Fra) Total Direct Energie       

DNF    Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) NTT Pro Cycling      

DNS    Rudy Barbier (Fra) Israel Start-Up Nation    

DNF    Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Israel Start-Up Nation

DNS    Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Start-Up Nation 

DNF    Mads Schmidt Würtz (Den) Israel Start-Up Nation  

DNF    Tom Devriendt (Bel) Circus-Wanty Gobert  

DNF    Cyril Gautier (Fra) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept        

DNF    Kevin Reza (Fra) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept

The Cape Epic mountain bike race, due to get underway on Table Mountain on March 15 and finish on March 22, has been cancelled. 

"Out of concern for the health and safety of our riders and other stakeholders, following recent advice received from the Western Cape Government, we have no choice but to cancel the 2020 Absa Cape Epic due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic," reads the statement. 

Race founder Kevin Vermaak said: "I have taken this step with a heavy heart, but the health and safety of everybody involved in the event has to be paramount. ‘At 6pm today we received the formal advice from government."

Flemish sports minister Ben Weyts has acknowledged that it is unlikely that the Tour of Flanders will take place. Yesterday, it was announced that all sporting events in Flanders have been suspended until March 31, but the measure looks likely to be extended beyond that date. Races including the E3 BinckBank Classic and Gent-Wevelgem have been cancelled, while the Tour of Flanders (April 5) looks likely to meet the same fate. “I don’t see it coming right, I don’t think it [the Tour of Flanders] can go ahead,” Weyts said, according to Het Laatste Nieuws. “We are of course constantly assessing the situation, but I think Flanders Classics need clarity as soon as possible, and we want to provide that as soon as possible.”

Greg Van Avermaet (CCC), who completed a training camp in Sierra Nevada today, is equally resigned to an April bereft of cobbles. “It is not yet certain if the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix will go ahead, but I don’t know to what extent that’s still realistic. I don’t see an end to the current situation for the time being,” Van Avermaet said, according to Het Nieuwsblad.

“Intensive training makes no sense right now. We now have to wait and see what comes next, but as I look at the situation, it seems more realistic to me that we will only be able to race again from June 1.”

VILLAREAL SPAIN FEBRUARY 05 Start Greg Van Avermaet of Belgium and CCC Team Matteo Trentin of Italy and CCC Team Nathan Van Hooydonck of Belgium and CCC Team during the 71st Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2020 Stage 1 a 180km stage from Castell to VilaReal VueltaCV VCV2020 on February 05 2020 in Villareal Spain Photo by David RamosGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The day's major development, of course, is the postponement of the Giro d'Italia due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It remains to be seen if a place can be found for it on the 2020 calendar. RCS Sport has said that no arrangements for an alternative date can be made before April 3, the planned end date for Italy's current phase of lockdown.

The 2019 Giro d'Italia climbs above the snow line

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Well with so many races being cancelled, what better time to get out and ride your own bike? Wahoo has added e-bike integration and released a stealth black Elemnt Bolt. You can check it out here.

Wahoo Stealth Elemnt Bolt

(Image credit: Wahoo)

Paris Nice 2020 - 78th Edition - 6th stage Sorgues - Apt 161,5 km - 13/03/2020 - Michael Schwarzmann (GER - Bora - Hansgrohe) - photo Nico Vereecken/PN/BettiniPhoto©2020

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Will Schachmann's Paris-Nice lead turn to victory overnight? We look at how Schachmann's lead was slashed today and if he will have to defend his lead on La Colmiane or be declared the de facto winner if the stage is cancelled.

Stage 1 of Cape Epic gets underway in Saronsberg

(Image credit: Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS)

Cape Epic is the latest event forced to cancel because of the cornavirus pandemic. Specialized's teams already pulled out of the race... read more here.

APT FRANCE MARCH 13 Alexis Gougeard of France and Team AG2R La Mondiale Romain Bardet of France and Team AG2R La Mondiale Anthony Perez of France and Team Cofidis Solution Credits Mads Pedersen of Denmark and Team Trek Segafredo World Champion Jersey during the 78th Paris Nice 2020 Stage 6 a 1615km stage from Sorgues to Apt 234m ParisNice parisnicecourse PN on March 13 2020 in Apt France Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Romain Bardet in the breakaway (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) was in today's breakaway but even he expressed frustration that the race continued despite all other sports being cancelled. You can read his comments here.

In case you missed it, check out the highlights from today's stage! It might be the last bike race you see for a while...

Don't forget to listen to the Cyclingnews podcast for insights into what's going on in Italy and how the coronavirus is impacting sport.

We've also updated our coronavirus and cycling timeline with all the news from the start of the coronavirus outbreak to our current situation.

We will also continue to update our Race cancellation tracker.

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