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Naesen starting 2019 Classics tilt in Valencia

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Oliver Naesen of Belgium and Team AG2R La Mondiale during stage 7 at BinckBank Tour

Oliver Naesen of Belgium and Team AG2R La Mondiale during stage 7 at BinckBank Tour (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) wins the Bretagne Classic

Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) wins the Bretagne Classic (Image credit: Miwa iijima/CV/BettiniPhoto)
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Oliver Naesen of Belgium and Team AG2R La Mondiale during stage 7 at BinckBank Tour

Oliver Naesen of Belgium and Team AG2R La Mondiale during stage 7 at BinckBank Tour (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Oliver Naesen poses with the Merckx 525 bike he will use in 2019 and 2020

Oliver Naesen poses with the Merckx 525 bike he will use in 2019 and 2020 (Image credit: AG2R La Mondiale)
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Oliver Naesen takes a tumble in the cross-country ski race

Oliver Naesen takes a tumble in the cross-country ski race (Image credit: Yves Perret/YPM)

Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) will start his 2019 campaign this week at the Vuelta a la Comunitat Valenciana with an aim toward the Classics and scoring his first win in one of the big spring races.

Naesen started his 2018 season at the Spanish stage race and had a solid run at the Classics, but the big wins have continued to elude him. He came closest at Eschborn-Frankfurt, where he was third, and scored top-10 finishes at Gent-Wevelgem and E3 Harelbeke, but bad luck and untimely crashes have kept him off the podium of the big Belgian races.

"I had a very good winter, but now I'm looking forward to racing again. That way you can quickly erase any questions about your form because the training is never the same as competition," Naesen said in a statement released with his team's Valencia roster announcement.

"The goal of my winter preparation was to make further progress," said Naesen, who revealed he's ridden 3,700km since January 1. "I had a big month in December, then rested during the holidays before doing heavy workloads in January. I have been a little quieter for the past few days so that I can attack the races feeling fresh."

The Vuelta a la Valencia begins Wednesday with a 10.2km opening time trial in 10.2km Orihuela. The race continents Thursday with a 166km stage in Alicante, followed by Friday's 194.3km third stage fromQuart de Poblet to Chera. Stage 4 takes the peloton 188km from Vila-real to Alcala-Alcossebre. The five-day 2.1 race ends Sunday with an 88.5km stage from Paterna to Valencia.

"I am coming to Valencia with a lot of desire to do well because I have missed racing," said Naesen, who will be joined in the AG2R La Mondiale line up by Geoffrey Bouchard, Clement Chevrier, Silvan Dillier, Julien Duval, Alexis Gougeard and Stijn Vandenberg.

Naesen said all systems are currently pointed toward the upcoming Classics, where he hopes to score his breakthrough victory.

"I want to succeed in my Classics campaign with the sole objective of winning one, starting with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (March 2)," he said. "I do not want to miss my chance. Each classic will be like a world championship.”

AG2R La Mondiale for Vuelta a la Comunitat Valenciana: Geoffrey Bouchard, Clement Chevrier, Silvan Dillier, Julien Duval, Alexis Gougeard, Oliver Naesen, Stijn Vandenberg