Mathieu van der Poel will miss Opening Weekend because of illness, his team have announced.
The Dutch superstar had been set to race Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne this weekend, but he has come down with flu and high fever.
Van der Poel was favourite for the Belgian one-day races, after a phenomenal cyclocross season that saw him retain his world champion’s jersey.
His Alpecin-Fenix team announced on Twitter: “Mathieu van der Poel will not be at the start of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this weekend. Van der Poel has the flu and because of high fever starting Wednesday night, he won’t be able to race.”
The bookies had Van der Poel down as 2/1 favourite for Omloop on Saturday (February 29), after he made is road racing return at the Volta ao Algarve last week.
Van der Poel, 25, dominated the cyclocross season, winning 24 out of the 25 races he entered.
After taking a two-week break, Van der Poel then started his road season in Portugal where he was working in a support role for Sacha Modolo.
His best result was 33rd on the second stage on the way to the summit of Alto de Fóia.
The Alpecin-Fenix team will now be made up of Petr Vakoč, Otto Vergaerde, Dries De Bondt, Floris Detier, Kristian Sbaragli, and Scott Thwaites.
Van der Poel’s next race is scheduled to be Strade-Bianche and Milan San-Remo.
He is also expected to race the Volta a Catalunya, then Dwars door Vlaanderen, the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Brabatnse Pijl, Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallone.
This summer he will be stepping away from the road bike however, as he is targeting the Olympic gold medal in the mountain bike event in Tokyo, before looking to the cyclocross season once again.