Tour de France 'Grand Depart' host city Nice was preparing its exhibition ride and fan park opening Thursday, as the contenders mulled over the likely sprint finish on stage one on Nice's Promenade des Anglais.
All open air cultural event gatherings are restricted to 5,000 people in France because of Covid-19, and fines of 135 euros were being dished out in central Nice to anyone caught without a mask.
The mountainous 21-day race starts Saturday with a run around the outskirts of the Mediterranean city but avoids the low Alps behind it, meaning the first stage should end in a mass bunch sprint.
The winner of stage 1 will wear the overall leader's yellow jersey on stage 2, but in the long term will be targeting the green jersey awarded to the best sprinter through a points system.
Lotto-Soudal's diminutive Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan, known as the pocket rocket and who stands 5ft 5in or 165cm tall, is a red hot favourite 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 last season.
"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 1 is not too hard for me," he said
"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.
Ewan said he hadn't looked too closely at the parcours, but was wary of just how mountainous it was.
"There should be about six opportunities for the sprinters this year."
"Some sprinters are missing but there are still riders like Elia Viviani, Sam Bennett and André Greipel and as always, it’ll be hard to win. Because of my three wins last year, there are expectations based on that, so I feel more pressure."
Temperatures Saturday are expected to be around 26C with showers.
The mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi and Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme were to open the fan park Thursday afternoon with the parade scheduled for early evening with rappers, dancers, a BMX exhibition and musical acts that will broadcast in 17 countries.