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Dillier preparing to blossom again at spring cobbled Classics

AG2R La Mondiale's Silvan Dillier – who finished second to Bora-Hansgrohe's Peter Sagan at last year's Paris-Roubaix – says that he's coming into form for the next few weeks of racing in Belgium and northern France, and will head to Friday's E3 BinckBank Classic as joint leader with Oliver Naesen, who finished second at Milan-San Remo on Saturday.

"All winter, I've prepared for this period of racing. The preparation is finished, and now I'm ready; the whole team is super motivated. Now it's off to Belgium," Dillier said on his team's website.

Thanks to Naesen's second place in San Remo at the weekend, AG2R is looking in ebullient shape for the next three weeks of racing in northern Europe, which includes the E3 BinckBank Classic, Gent-Wevelgem, Dwars door Vlaanderen, the Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix on April 14.

"When I saw Oliver taking second place at Milan San-Remo, it just made me want to relive those moments again in Belgium," continued Dillier. "And, most importantly, it could trigger some positive momentum for the entire team."

Dillier was somewhat of a surprise runner-up behind Sagan at last year's Paris-Roubaix, with the Swiss rider having survived from an earlier breakaway, but then managing to stay with Sagan when the three-time world champion caught up with him having attacked from a chasing group.

The then-Swiss road race champion had only returned to racing the week before Roubaix, having broken his thumb at the previous month's Strade Bianche.

This season, a crash at Tirreno-Adriatico had threatened to again disrupt his spring, but there were no lasting ill-effects from hitting the ground in Italy, and Dillier is now looking forward to the next few weeks of racing.

"My crash at Tirreno was no big deal. All's well, and I'm ready to return to the cobbled classics," Dillier said.

"The E3 is a really great race – a kind of mini Tour of Flanders – and, aside from the Monuments, I think it's one of the most beautiful races of the entire spring."

Meanwhile, Naesen's cobbled Classics campaign last season was extremely consistent, although the Belgian was unable to come away with a podium spot, taking fourth at the E3, sixth at Gent-Wevelgem, 11th at the Tour of Flanders and 12th at Roubaix.

Dillier and Naesen will lead a seven-man squad for the E3 this Friday that also includes Lithuanian road race champion Gediminas Bagdonas and veteran Belgian Classics specialist Stijn Vandenbergh, while there is only one substitution for Gent-Wevelgem – two days later, on Sunday – when Dorian Godon goes out for Clement Venturini.

AG2R La Mondiale for the 2019 E3 BinckBank Classic [March 29]: Gediminas Bagdonas, Nico Denz, Silvan Dillier, Julien Duval, Dorian Godon, Oliver Naesen, Stijn Vandenbergh

AG2R La Mondiale for the 2019 Gent-Wevelgem [March 31]: Gediminas Bagdonas, Nico Denz, Silvan Dillier, Julien Duval, Oliver Naesen, Stijn Vandenbergh, Clement Venturini

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