All of the cycling events at the forthcoming Tokyo Olympics will be held without spectators following a rise in Covid-19 cases in Japan.
The delayed Games starts in just over a fortnight on July 24, with the men’s and women’s road races one of the first events to award medals.
It was planned that stadia would be up to 50% full or house a maximum of 10,000 fans, but with a new wave of the pandemic underway in the country – particularly in its capital – the government have intervened and announced that fans will no longer be allowed to attend.
Only Japanese residents would have been able to witness the Games, but now all events across all sports will take place behind closed doors.
A new state of emergency in Tokyo will be in place between July 12 and August 22, with bars and restaurants forced to shut before 8pm and being banned from serving alcohol.
It is a blow for athletes who have enjoyed seeing fans return to sports stadiums in recent months, albeit in reduced capacity.
The routes for the men’s and women’s road races take in areas outside of Tokyo, and the open-air nature of the sport means that fans will still be likely to witness the event from the roadside, although fan congregation will be forbidden.
The undulating 234km men’s road race takes place on July 24, with the women’s event running a day later.
Great Britain will be led by Adam and Simon Yates alongside Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart, while Belgium take a strong team that includes Remco Evenepoel, Wout van Aert and 2016 Olympic champion Greg van Avermaet.
The women’s 137km race is a day later on July 25, and Lizzie Deignan will lead British hopes.
Both individual time trials will happen on Wednesday, July 28, before action in the velodrome gets underway on August 2 and runs until August 8.
Toyko 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto apologised to fans who had bought tickets, saying: “It is regrettable that we are delivering the Games in a very limited format, facing the spread of coronavirus infections.
“I am sorry to those who purchased tickets and everyone in local areas.”
In the last three Olympics, Great Britain have topped the medal table in the cycling events, but with the emergence of yet more stronger nations – particularly Denmark in the men’s team pursuit – it is less likely that the British team will occupy the head of the rankings this time around.