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Flu keeps Demare from Omloop Het Nieuwsblad start

Arnaud Démare's Classics campaign will have to wait past the Opening Weekend in Belgium as the French sprinter has not yet fully recovered from influenza he picked up last month at the Volta a Algarve, according to a report in L'Equipe.

Groupama-FDJ will not replace Démare in Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad line-up, according to the L'Equipe report, and he will likely not start Sunday's Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, where he was runner-up to Jumbo-Visma's Dylan Groenewegen last year. The team made the decision Friday after Demare was unable to finish stage 5 of the Portuguese race on February 24.

Démare has started Omloop every year since 2014, with his best finishes coming last year with ninth, and two 10th-place finishes in 2014 and 2015. With the exception of 2015, he's followed Omloop with the more-sprinter-friendly Kuurne and finished sixth and second there over his past two tries.

Démare put in a full Classics campaign last season, following the Opening Weekend with a stage win at Paris-Nice, then third at Milan San Remo - a race he won in 2016 - and third again at Gent Wevelgem. He was 15th at Tour of Flanders. 

Démare is expected to resume his original race program at Paris-Nice March 10-17.

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