Philippe Gilbert and Oliver Naesen struck by illness in Tour of Flanders week

Question marks around their form ahead of the Monument

Philippe Gilbert (left) and Oliver Naesen at the 2018 Tour de France (Photo: Yuzuru SUNADA)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

The form of Philippe Gilbert and Oliver Naesen has been thrown into doubt ahead of the Tour of Flanders due to illness.

Both Belgians have suffered ailments in the lead-up to the cobbled Monument, with Gilbert pulling out of Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday (April 3) and Naesen finishing 19th.

Gilbert suffered stomach problems early this week, but is hoping to start in Flanders.

Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) has been battling a bout of bronchitis and started a course of antibiotics in the hopes of being healthy for Flanders on Sunday (April 7).

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He has been on the form of his career this season, finishing second in Milan-San Remo and third in Ghent-Wevelgem, but the illness could threaten his chance of a first major win.

The 28-year-old told cycling news site Wielerflits: “My main task is to stay healthy and ensure this doesn’t get any worse.”

He joked that he may have caught the illness when he was doused in champagne on the podium of Ghent-Wevelgem last week.

Former winner of the Tour of Flanders Gilbert (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) had been experiencing stomach problems on the evening before the Dwars door Vlaanderen.

He started the mid-week event, but was forced to pull out 40km from the finish due to feeling unwell.

Gilbert said on Twitter: “Started Dwars door Vlaanderen with a smile but had to quit the race a bit later with stomach problems.

“Nothing too serious but I didn’t want to take any risk for the coming Sundays.

“Full focus on the Tour of Flanders now.”

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Another Belgian is questionable for the event this weekend, Sep Vanmarcke.

The EF Education First rider was involved in a high-speed crash at the E3 BinckBank Classic last week, injuring his knee, ribs and ankle.

Vanmarcke skipped Ghent-Wevelgem and Dwars door Vlaanderen, and will test his health during the Flanders recon with the team on Friday.

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.