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German rider Maximilian Schachmann, seen here on March 8, 2020, won a four-man sprint to take the overall lead going into Monday’s second stage.

ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images

The Paris-Nice stage race got under way under tight scrutiny amid coronavirus fears on Sunday as contact with the riders was kept to the bare minimum.

Fans were not allowed near the team buses at the start of the 154-km stage around Plaisir, 30 km west of Paris, and a maximum of two teams will be sharing hotels throughout the week-long race.

The pre-race news conference was cancelled and there was no post-stage press involvement apart from a brief broadcast interview with stage winner Maximilian Schachmann of Germany.

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Schachmann won a four-man sprint to take the overall lead going into Monday’s second stage.

Riders have also been asked by organizers to avoid taking selfies with fans and giving autographs.

Seven World Tour (Elite) teams pulled out over coronavirus fears and organizers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) voted in two other outfits to partly make up for the absence of riders such as defending champion Egan Bernal.

Sixteen people have died from coronavirus in France, the head of the country’s public health service said on Saturday, while there have been 949 confirmed cases.

In the interests of public health and safety, our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access. However, The Globe depends on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe to globeandmail.com. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.

Your subscription helps The Globe and Mail provide readers with critical news at a critical time. Thank you for your continued support. We also hope you will share important coronavirus news articles with your friends and family. In the interest of public health and safety, all our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access.

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