Nick Nuyens has endured terrible luck over the past three seasons, and his time with Dutch squad Rabobank has been riddled with injuries and illness. The Belgian is hoping today's Brabantse Pijl will be the beginning of his return to the top, however.
The 29-year-old from Lier, who has two Brabantse Pijl podium finishes (third in 2006 and second in 2007), has endured falls at critical moments in his season for the past several years, the latest during the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen - Harelbeke. It almost ruled him out of the Tour of Flanders (he didn't finish the race) and again has him on the back foot leading up to the Ardennes Classics.
He's remaining positive however, telling Belgian daily Sporza: "I hope that all misery is behind me. Punctures, falls, illness, I've had it all. It was a big disaster. In Harelbeke [E3 Prijs] I fell three times, my body took three heavy blows. My hip was black and I still have a soft spot in my sternum."
And he admitted that recovery from the trio of spills was difficult. "I thought the pain would be quickly forgotten, but it was not," said Nuyens.
He'll have some inspiration for his return to racing proper, despite still feeling the effects of his injuries. The powerfully built rider will be competing on home turf. "On Wednesday I'll ride the Brabantse Pijl, a course that is [suited to] me," he said. "I have long lived in that neighbourhood and it remains something special for me."
While being widely recognised as a rider for the flatlands, a top 10 in last year's edition of the Amstel Gold Race was an indication of what Nuyens is capable of on hillier courses. "I prepared very well in the winter and despite all the problems the form has come easily to me," he explained.
"On Wednesday and in the Amstel in want to be there in the finale. I believe in it, as does the team. If everything falls into place, I will succeed."
And while Belgian riders have been criticised for not performing thus far in the Classics - the likes of Philippe Gilbert, Stijn Devolder and Leif Hoste have come under fire - Nuyens isn't fussed, explaining that the sport is global, which means riders other than Belgians are also going to win.
"Take it all with a grain of salt," he said. "If only Belgians rode at the front, the sport would be too small. If there were no Belgians, we wouldn't ride."