AG2R-La Mondiale's Oliver Naesen is aiming for redemption at Sunday's Paris-Roubaix following his Oude Kwaremont crash at the Tour of Flanders. The Belgian has been one of the revelations of the cobbled classics and was on track for his best result yet at Ronde Ronde when he was involved in the crash alongside Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet. He eventually finished in 23rd place having been top-ten in his first four classics of the season.
The 26-year-old will lead the French team into the 'queen of the classics' alongside compatriot Stijn Vandenbergh and Alexis Gougeard.
"I feel good. I have abrasions on my hip, but it does not really hurt," Naesen told Sporza of his injuries. "My knee is a little stiff and my elbow is swollen. That bothers a little, but I can ride. This morning we did an easy two hours. That was good.
"I will start Wednesday in the Scheldeprijs, a race which I see more as a workout — I will not really contend there. Sunday's Paris-Roubaix is the race that I have designated."
Naesen made his Paris - Roubaix debut in 2015, finishing in 53rd place. He made a vast improvement last year to finish in 13th place and is aiming higher again in 2017.
"I know every helling, every run-up to a helling, each and every cobblestone in Flanders, but Roubaix is unknown to me," he said. "I've ridden the race only twice and reconned it twice. It is still an important race for me and the team."
Although Naesen may be feeling the effect of the Flanders crash, he starts the race full of ambition.
"I really hope a good result," he said.
"Winning? Why not? When you start, you can win. I feel good and that is reflected in my results in recent weeks."
Naesen will be able to call upon Gougeard for support in the race with the Frenchman ready to commit to his Belgian teammate.
"I have participated in the entire Flanders campaign and have learned that positioning is paramount from start to finish. I am motivated to do well myself, but I’m also motivated to help Oliver Naesen," said Gougeard. "He has proved that he is one of the best Flanderian riders, and the whole team will be ready to do whatever it can to help him..."
AG2R-La Mondiale for Paris-Roubaix: Stijn Vandenbergh, Rudy Barbier, Nico Denz, Gediminas Bagdonas, Hugo Houle, Oliver Naesen, Julien Duval and Alexis Gougeard.
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