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Clerc clicks into Classic gear

By:
Daniel Benson
Published:
February 26, 2009, 0:00 GMT,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 18:09 BST
Edition:
First Edition Cycling News, February 26, 2009
Last year's Milo Sprint Points Champion, Aurelien Clerc (Ag2R La Mondiale)

Last year's Milo Sprint Points Champion, Aurelien Clerc (Ag2R La Mondiale)

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By Daniel Benson After several near misses at the Tour of Langkawi, Aurélien Clerc (Ag2R La...

By Daniel Benson

After several near misses at the Tour of Langkawi, Aurélien Clerc (Ag2R La Mondiale) is in confident mood heading into the start of the Classics campaign. The 29-year-old Swiss sprinter is set to start this weekend's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and after finishing second in 2008's Gent-Wevelgem, believes his best chance at landing a Monument could come soon enough.

"I've been improving my condition and despite all the problems I had over the winter I've already had some good placings at races like the Tour of Langkawi," Clerc told Cyclingnews.

During the off-season, Clerc was told that his previous employers, Bouygues Telecom, had no budget to keep him, and with little time to find a new team, he eventually found a home at Vincent Lavenu's AG2R squad. "There was some delay with finding a team after they told me they had less money, so I didn't train until I had a contract with AG2R in early December. Since then I've worked hard though, both on my own and at training camps."

A new team and new surroundings look to have kick-started Clerc's self-belief at a critical point in both the season and his career. "I like riding in Belgium. It will be hard for me to follow the leaders in races like Roubaix but I can get a top placing there. Roubaix is my favourite race and I'd love to win it one day but races like Het Volk and Gent-Wevelgem are perfectly-suited to me. When the bunch finishes a long hard day with around 30 to 40 riders, I can be a contender."

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will be Clerc's first race on European soil this year and he'll lead a roster that includes Sébastien Hinault and Lloyd Mondory in Belgium's first race.

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