Romain Bardet has said he doesn't understand why Paris-Nice is continuing amid the coronavirus outbreak that has seen a number of sporting events cancelled and European governments begin to ban large public gatherings.
"When nothing really makes sense anymore, you might as well get caught up in the ambient madness and do the things you like to do," Bardet told French media after the finish of stage six.
"I didn't understand why the race went on today. We seem out of place on a bike when everyone is making efforts to stem the spread of the virus."
Stage six started with over 100 riders in the peloton despite a ban put in place by the French government the night before on gatherings containing over 100 people. Bahrain-McLaren had pulled out of the race before the start of the day while Israel Start-Up Nation announced mid-stage they would not be signing on for stage seven.
"I deplore the lack of unity in the peloton: some are gone, others are not, we'll end up being maybe 30 riders," said Bardet, with a total of 13 riders not starting stage six and a further 11 not finishing the day of racing. The French Cycling Federation then suspended all racing indefinitely yet Paris-Nice's final stage seven would continue, with the original planned stage eight called off.
"What's the sense of it all, especially towards the rest of the population? We do our little race as if nothing is happening. It's all very strange. Nothing surprises me in 2020. I'm especially worried about the general health situation," Bardet said.
Richie Porte agreed with the Frenchman's sentiment, telling ITV: "The general consensus among riders is what he said. He's a big man to stand up and say exactly what he wants and it will be a nice race to get finished.
"I haven't had the best Paris-Nice, I'll be the first one to admit that. It's been a funny one, mentally, here. I've got a pregnant wife at home, a baby, and no-one really knows if we should be here or not."
The future remains uncertain, which Bardet says is the biggest cause of concern to people, not just bike races, but that maybe it will be possible to draw up a new race calendar soon.
"Maybe in a few days we will be able to draw up a new calendar, but we don't yet know how the pandemic will evolve and we could still have to do a lot to fight it in the coming weeks. That's what worries me, the idea that the worst is certainly still to come. Should I ride the Tour? I can’t say that, who knows."
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1