French authorities have vowed to ensure the Tour de France runs smoothly in the face of an increased terror threat.
The three-week race, which kicks off on Saturday in the Netherlands, comes just a week after a man beheaded his boss and tried to blow up a gas plant in southeastern France and six months after Islamist militants killed 17 people in attacks in and around Paris.
“In addition to road safety and public order, the terrorist risk is obviously not ignored. In the current contest it will encourage us to take even greater caution,” said Pierre-Henry Brandet, spokesman of the French interior ministry.
About 20,000 police officials and firefighters are scheduled to protect the event in keeping with previous years, but checkpoints will be further strengthened, he said.
“Vigilance will be heightened on the course to identify suspicious behaviour,” Brandet told the news agency, due to the “very elevated threat of terrorism.”
The Tour de France starts in the Dutch university town of Utrecht and ends in Paris on July 26.
The annual sporting event is as much a showcase for cycling as it for France.
Cyclists roll over 3,500 kilometres of paved road, plains and rugged terrain in the race to the finish.