'This is the start of the real season' says Oliver Naesen as Classics kick off with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

AG2R La Mondiale’s Oliver Naesen at the 2020 Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana

AG2R La Mondiale's Oliver Naesen says that this weekend's racing "is the start of the real season" with the Belgian Classics specialist taking part in both 'Opening Weekend' races: this Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on Sunday.

"I'm counting down, along with many others, for the coming weekend," Naesen said, according to HLN.be on Tuesday. "For me, this is the start of the real season. You may have already shown something in the preparation races, but on Saturday morning all counters are reset to zero.

"Take a look at the list of participants at the Omloop," he suggested, with that start list including defending champion Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-QuickStep), 2018 champion Michael Valgren (NTT), two-time winner Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team), Team Ineos' Ian Stannard, who won the race in both 2014 and 2015, world road race champion Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and Bahrain McLaren's Dylan Teuns.

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"There are no bad riders at the start on Saturday, but I'm ready for it," Naesen said.

The 29-year-old Belgian's French WorldTour team for the race includes his brother, and new signing, Lawrence Naesen, the experienced Stijn Vandenbergh, who finished second at the Omloop in 2013 and fourth in 2015, and former Swiss road race champion Silvan Dillier, who finished second at the 2018 Paris-Roubaix behind Peter Sagan.

AG2R will make just once change between Saturday's Omloop and Kuurne on Sunday, with Alexis Gougeard being replaced by Clément Venturini.

AG2R La Mondiale for the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Silvan Dillier, Julien Duval, Dorian Godon, Alexis Gougeard, Lawrence Naesen, Oliver Naesen, Stijn Vandenbergh

AG2R La Mondiale for Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne: Silvan Dillier, Julien Duval, Dorian Godon, Lawrence Naesen, Oliver Naesen, Stijn Vandenbergh, Clément Venturini