Oliver Naesen confident for Tour of Flanders

Knee injury unlikely to keep Belgian champion out of the race

AG2R La Mondiale named Belgian champion Oliver Naesen in its team for the Tour of Flanders on Thursday. Naesen had been in doubt after crashing on his knee during the Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday, but was confident he would race on Sunday.

"The doctors have reassured me about the condition of my knee. Normally, I will start the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday," Naesen said in a press release.

Naesen dropped out of the race on Wednesday due to the pain in his knee, but scans did not show any contusions to the bones. He was told to rest on Thursday and make a final decision on racing this weekend after the course recon on Friday.

"If his recovery progresses in the right direction, all should be operational and in good condition," said team doctor Grégory Ornon.

After coming fourth in the E3 Harelbeke and sixth in Gent-Wevelgem, Naesen was among the favourites for the Tour of Flanders.

"Of course, having a crash before a big event is never ideal," the 27-year-old said. "Nevertheless, I am very motivated ahead of this event, which is the race of the spring. Besides that, I really don't want to miss the Ronde while I am wearing the jersey as the champion of Belgium. We had a hard time at the Dwars door Vlaanderen, but I know the whole team wants to come back strong on Sunday."

AG2R La Mondiale for Tour of Flanders: Nico Denz, Rudy Barbier, Tony Gallopin, Oliver Naesen, Gediminas Bagdonas, Stijn Vandenbergh, Julien Duval.

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