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Naesen growing tired of bad luck as another crash ruins Tour of Flanders hopes

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Oliver Naesen (AG2R)

Oliver Naesen (AG2R) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale)

Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images Sport)
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Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) riding towards the top of the Muur

Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) riding towards the top of the Muur (Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images Sport)
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Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) on the Paterberg

Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) on the Paterberg (Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images Sport)
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Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) leading the main group

Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) leading the main group (Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images Sport)
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Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) rides through the flares

Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) rides through the flares (Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images Sport)
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Oliver Naesen (AG2R la Mondiale) with an early mechanical

Oliver Naesen (AG2R la Mondiale) with an early mechanical (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)

Oliver Naesen (AG2R-La Mondiale) looked up to the heavens and threw his arms down in a mixture of exasperation and disbelief. How could this be happening again?

The Belgian champion has had rotten luck so far this Classics campaign – and indeed since the start of the season – and another crash on Sunday put paid to his chances at the Tour of Flanders.

Naesen's very participation at De Ronde had been in doubt after an unavoidable crash at Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen had left him with a bruised left knee. That in turn came after he was caught up in the pile-up half-way through last Friday's E3 Harelbeke.

Even before the start of the Classics he'd spent more than his fair share of time on the deck, most notably breaking his nose at the Ruta del Sol. And even at Flanders last year he was taken out in the finale when Peter Sagan famously clipped that spectator's jacket on the Oude Kwaremont.

So when he was brought down in the big crash that occurred on the approach to the Muur van Geraardsbergen on Sunday, there was only one emotion.

"It's very frustrating. It just doesn't seem to stop," Naesen told Cyclingnews in Oudenaarde.

"You know, the first crash is always ok, it's part of the game, but like now it's the sixth one, it starts to become a little bit too much for me."

After having to change his front wheel, Naesen set about closing the gap to the peloton. He found some assistance through a teammate but had to spend plenty of time in the wind.

Eventually he made it, and he managed to stay with the main group of favourites during the decisive phases of the race, and all the way to the line. By that point, however, any hope of clipping off the front of that group had disappaered, and he had to settle for 11th place.

"I didn't know if I would get back, but I said to myself for sure I will finish the race," said Naesen.

"I just went from group to group, and obviously you fall into groups with helpers of other leaders, and it's normal that they don't help me to get back. I think I had to pull like 15 kilometres alone. That's actually my finale I used up there. I felt it at the end – I was really really smashed.

"I didn't have the luxury to play tactics anymore. Unfortunately, I was totally smashed, and all I could do was try to hang on. I was empty empty empty at the finish."

The one positive for Naesen was that the knee injury that threatened to keep him out of De Ronde didn't hold him back.

Paris-Roubaix, a race Naesen has suggested suits him better than Flanders, is coming up on Sunday and represents a final chance for the Belgian champion to salvage something from a spring that had promised so much.

"The knee was not perfect but it held out, so I'm pretty pleased with that. It's something to build on for next week," he said.

"There's nothing wrong with my shape – I just need the race to be a little bit kinder to me. I need a little bit more luck." 

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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.