Tour de France ‘Grand Depart’ host city Nice scrambled to impose tighter health protocols on Thursday as the region was reclassified as a COVID-19 ‘red zone’ while four members of one team were sent home after positive pre-race tests.With contenders mulling the likely sprint finish on the Mediterranean city’s celebrated seafront Promenade des Anglais, it was announced only a few dozen fans could get to see the race start on Saturday.Authorities in the chic seaside town decided Thursday’s team parade and fan park could only host 1,000 spectators, leaving the vast downtown Place Massena almost deserted for the show with thousands of fans packed outside large blacked out barriers. There was an “undeniable resurgence” of the COVID-19 epidemic throughout France, Castex told a press conference, with 39 positive tests per 100,000 population — four times the level of a month ago, and rising in all age groups.”We knew it was coming,” regional prefect Bernard Gonzalez said. “We are shifting from tight conditions, to very tight conditions,” he said, flanked by Nice mayor Christian Estrosi and Tour de France organizer Christian Prudhomme.Saturday’s Promenade des Anglais start line will allow just 100 spectators, reserved for municipality staff “who worked so hard to get this to happen” Gonzalez said.There will also be no camper vans or pop-up villages on the summits in the mountains behind Nice on stage two.”People should stay home and watch on television,” Gonzalez said, without going as far as banning people from gathering in their thousands by the roadside.Anyone involved in the Tour — riders and the rest of the caravan — have undergone nasal tests for coronavirus symptoms.”It’s unpleasant [the nasal swab] but necessary. We are all here ready to race after all,” Astana’s Colombian captain Miguel Angel Lopez told AFP.The Nice mayor went even further.”Inside the Tour is where you are most protected from the spread of the virus,” said Estrosi. Outsprinting COVID-19 The Tour de France, however, appears to be succeeding where the Tokyo Olympics and football’s Euros failed, in getting their event staged in 2020, albeit late and in reduced circumstances.The mountainous 21-day race starts Saturday with a run around the outskirts of Nice but avoids the low Alps behind it until stage two, meaning the first stage should end in a mass bunch sprint.The winner of stage one will wear the overall leader’s yellow jersey, but in the long term will be targeting the green jersey awarded to the best sprinter.Lotto-Soudal’s Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan, who stands at 1.65m, is a red hot favorite to win the opener.”I feel more pressure than last year at the start of my first Tour de France,” says Ewan who won three stages including the clincher on the Champs-Elysees in 2019.”I’ve stepped up again another level and I’m ready to take up the challenge on Saturday,” said the affable 26-year-old.”Stage one is not too hard for me.”The conditions may be rainy and lower temperatures suit me better,” said the man from New South Wales, who lives down the coast from Nice in Monaco.Temperatures Saturday are expected to be around 26C with frequent showers. Topics : Fines of 135 euros were dished out to anyone without a protective face mask in Nice’s terrace-lined squares and along the beachfront walkways.The Alpes-Maritimes region where Nice is situated was reclassified as a COVID-19 red zone, along with 18 other French departments in a decision from French Prime Minister Jean Castex.On Thursday evening, Belgian team Lotto said it had sent four of their entourage home after two of them tested ‘non-negative’ for their PCR nasal swab COVID-19 tests.Any team that has two riders test positive will be expelled from the Tour.
Where next for Mauricio Pochettino? 6/4 Bayern Munich7/2 Man Utd7/2 Real Madrid7/1 PSG14/1 Juventus14/1 ArsenalOdds courtesy of Betfair If Arsenal have any ambition they would sack Unai Emery and make a move for Mauricio Pochettino Advertisement Whether Jose Mourinho is the right fit for Tottenham or not, Daniel Levy can hardly be accused of settling for mediocrity or displaying the levels of inertia which appear to be crippling north London rivals Arsenal.By replacing the most successful manager in the club’s modern history with the most qualified, high-profile available coach on the market, Levy has sent out a clear signal that results, above all else, will determine his decision-making.For all his shortcomings, and there are many, Mourinho will galvanise Spurs, in the short-term at least. It would, after all, be difficult not to improve on an alarming run of league form which dates back to last season and sees Spurs currently languishing in 14th place.AdvertisementAdvertisementRarely has Mourinho, if ever, inherited a team in a state of such apparent disarray. Even at Manchester United he took charge of FA Cup winners and was immediately given the funds to break the British transfer record to sign Paul Pogba and add a cast-iron guarantee of goals in the form of Zlatan Ibrahimovc. Levy will allow him no such luxury but the impact of a new man, with a new message, who at one time or another has coveted many of the players he will now work with, should not be underestimated.ADVERTISEMENTThe Spurs chairman may well be risking his own legacy on a manager who none of Europe’s traditional heavyweights were willing to consider as a solution to their own problems, but it is hard not to admire Levy’s ruthlessness, especially when set against the ‘move along, nothing to see here’ Officer Barbrady style attitude adopted by Arsenal’s hierarchy over the course of the international break. Unai Emery was given a vote of confidence following Arsenal’s defeat at Leicester (Picture: Getty)Despite a troubled end to his tenure, Pochettino leaves Tottenham with his reputation as an elite coach fully intact. The likes of Bayern Munich will no doubt register an interest while, for all the talk of three-year plans, a poor run of results will prompt Ed Woodward to consider taking decisive action and hire the man many felt should have replaced Louis van Gaal at Old Trafford instead of Mourinho.Arsenal, meanwhile, are said to be hopeful that a run of favourable fixtures against the likes of Southampton, Brighton, Norwich and West Ham affords Emery the opportunity to scramble to the safety of calmer waters. Maximum points from those fixtures would only delay the inevitable, however, by which time Pochettino will either have found alternative employment or laid the groundwork ahead of starting a new role come the summer.AdvertisementPochettino, memorably, claimed he would rather return to work on his farm in Argentina than coach Arsenal or, given his Espanyol connections, Barcelona. But that was before his former employer urged him to quit, subsequently sacked him and paid his replacement twice as much. There are, of course, any number of reasons the 47-year-old would guard against switching north London allegiances, but loyalty to Spurs, and or Levy, given the events of the last 24 hours are unlikely to be chief among them.Arsenal might not be the attractive proposition they were at the time of Sol Campbell’s defection, but the level of ambition and audaciousness displayed by David Dein at that time is precisely what is required from the likes of his modern day counterpart Sanllehi. Persisting with Emery, simply isn’t an option.The Gunners would undoubtedly be at the back of a long queue for Pochettino, but they must at the very least attempt to join it.Where will Pochettino end up nextReal Madrid0%Man Utd0%PSG0%Juventus0%Arsenal0%Share your resultsShare your resultsTweet your resultsMORE: Arsenal step up Erling Haaland interest as striker’s father visits training groundMORE: Gabriel Martinelli names the Arsenal youngster who has Brazilian qualities While Pochettino can justifiably point to a lack of support from Levy in the transfer market – he infamously went 18 months without signing anyone before Jack Clarke’s arrival in the summer – Emery has no such excuse. Following his appointment, five new players arrived to address key deficiencies in the squad he inherited from Arsene Wenger. Only Bernd Leno has lived up to expectation with Lucas Torreira’s form having dipped on account of being asked to play out of position and Matteo Guendouzi thriving, one suspects, as a consequence of playing on instinct rather than to instruction.AdvertisementAdvertisementArsenal gambled this summer following last season’s epic capitulation which culminated in the sort of result – a 4-1 humiliation in a showpiece European final – that would earn most managers the sack, rather than the reprieve that has unquestionably backfired. Emery was effectively given a vote of confidence during the international break which followed the damaging, listless 2-0 defeat at Leicester. At that juncture, Raul Sanllehi and his boardroom cohorts could justifiably have claimed there was no outstanding, logical and attainable alternative to Emery. Not now.Mourinho was never a serious option, despite his public and private flirtations, given his history with Arsenal, while promoting Freddie Ljungberg ahead of schedule offers only the guarantee of a short-term feel-good factor. Max Allegri, meanwhile, is cut from the same cloth as Emery and would, initially at least, struggle with the language barrier which has prevented the Spaniard from building any sort of immediacy with Arsenal fans. CommentShare this article via facebookShare this article via twitter4.4kShares James GoldmanSports editorWednesday 20 Nov 2019 5:30 pmShare this article via facebookShare this article via twitterShare this article via messengerShare this with Share this article via emailShare this article via flipboardCopy link4.4kShares Advertisement Jose Mourinho has signed a three-and-a-half year contract to become Tottenham’s new manager (Picture: Getty)Pochettino, ultimately, has been sacked for presiding over a run of results which threatened to serve a terminal blow to the club’s primary objective of finishing in the top four. That Levy has removed him from office at the first sign of trouble, while Arsenal persevere with a manager guilty of making many of the same mistakes which prompted the Argentine’s downfall speaks to contrasting standards both clubs are willing to tolerate. Whereas Arsenal’s board saw green shoots of recovery during the opening 60 minutes at Leicester, Levy regarded dropping two points at home to Sheffield United as the final straw.Arsenal’s league form is only marginally better than Tottenham’s and not even the most die-hard of Emery supporters, of which there appear to be few, would use the club’s current position in the table as a reason for his continued employment. Approaching 18 months into his tenure there is no discernible style of play, no consistency, nothing to cling onto. Arsenal are boring, and not even in the sort of effective, stifling fashion that brings about positive results through discipline and organisation.A chaotic mess on the field, Emery’s Arsenal are equally confused off it with the Spaniard having isolated several of his more senior players and effectively blamed an emerging group of youngsters for a downturn in results. He has undermined his own decision to ostracise Mesut Ozil by performing an embarrassing U-turn and been forced to name the third permanent captain of his reign having bungled Granit Xhaka’s appointment.