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'Champagne celebration' gives Oliver Naesen bronchitis

Joe Robinson
4 Apr 2019

Belgian now doubtful ahead of Tour of Flanders this weekend

One of the pre-race favourites for this Sunday's Tour of Flanders could be out of the reckoning before the race has even begun due to a champagne celebration giving him bronchitis.

AG2R La Mondiale's Oliver Naesen confirmed to TV Oost Nieuws in Belgium that he was suffering from a bout of bronchitis and is currently doubtful to start his home classic this Sunday.

The former Belgian national champion confirmed that he has started a course of antibiotics and that he hopes to have recovered before the race. He also suspected that the cause of his sudden illness came as a result of the champagne soaking he received at Gent-Wevelgem last Sunday.

The 28-year-old finished third in the sprint finish behind eventual winner Alexander Kristoff and John Degenkolb.

When on the podium, as is customary, the three riders sprayed champagne over one another in celebration. Making him cold and damp, Naesen believes this alongside the volatile immune system of a cyclist is what brought on the infection.

Naesen was also the recipient of a champagne dousing only a week earlier after finishing an impressive second at Milan-San Remo.

It does not appear that Naesen was too affected by the illness yesterday, finishing 19th at Dwars door Vlaanderen only 19 seconds adrift of eventual winner Mathieu van der Poel.

Although if Naesen is struck with illness, it will come as a major disappointment for the home fans considering the Spring Classics season the Oostende-born rider has already had.

Despite not winning a race, Naesen has managed top 10 finishes at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and E3-BinckBank alongside his third place at Gent-Wevelgem and second at San Remo last month.

Naesen's results have been far and away the best of any Belgian Classics rider this Spring with others such as Greg van Avermaet, Sep Vanmarcke and Philippe Gilbert all struggling with a mixture of form, injury and misfortune.

This has become quite the concern for the home crowd with Belgian daily newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws reminding readers that this is the first spring since World War II that is yet to produce a Belgian winner of a one-day Classic before the Tour of Flanders.

The Tour of Flanders takes place this Sunday with a 270km route across the region's cobbled climbs from Antwerp to Oudernaarde.