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Fears for Tour de France as mud-fest Paris-Roubaix postponed

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Paris (AFP)

A major event on the French sports calendar the Paris-Roubaix cycling race was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday as organisers ASO held back as yet to changing dates for the Tour de France.

The one-day Paris-Roubaix race contested in mud or dust over old cobbled mining roads in mid-April is known as 'the Hell of the North' and is watched as avidly by the French public as the Tour.

ASO, who run the Tour and Paris-Roubaix, also announced the postponement of two huge cycling dates in Belgium including the Liege-Bastogne-Liege run through the Ardennes, which had been scheduled for April 26.

Another ASO race in Britain's Tour de Yorkshire scheduled for April 30 to May 3, with male and female versions, has been called off too.

Paris-Roubaix has been raced since 1896 and has only been previously cancelled during wartime.

In a flurry of virus hit cycling races ASO stubbornly staged the Paris-Nice one week tour that ended a day earlier than scheduled last Saturday.

ASO chief Christian Prudhomme suggested earlier this week he hoped the Tour could go ahead as scheduled for June 27 to July 19.

"It is still more than a hundred days until the start of the Tour. The hunger for the race will be immense once activities are resumed," Prudhomme said.

The 2020 Tour de France is due to start in the south coast city of Nice, with a course that rarely strays far from the mountains in a hotly anticipated format.

Cycling was one of the first sports hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak with the abandonment of the UAE Tour in late February after two Italian mechanics tested positive for COVID-19.

There was a sense of shock when the caravan of riders, support staff and media were put under quarantine, where some, including Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria, remain.

Then came the cancellation of Italy's coast-to-coast Tirreno-Adriatico, with the nation's key one-day Milan-San Remo race also being called off for only the fourth time in over a century.

Last Friday the Giro d'Italia -- scheduled for May 9-31 -- was postponed after Hungary announced it would not host the opening three stages in and around Budapest as planned.

Since then the Tour de Suisse, Tour of the Basque Country and Tour of Romandy have all been postponed too.

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