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Van der Poel’s Alpecin-Fenix team announced the news on Thursday morning. He will be replaced by Dutch rider Floris De Tier in the team’s lineup at the race.
“Van der Poel has the flu, and because of the high fever starting Wednesday night, he won’t be able to race,” the team revealed.
The news puts a damper on the unofficial start to Belgian classics season, as van der Poel was set to battle rival Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Deceuninck-Quick Step’s Zdenek Stybar, among other top riders, at the famed Belgian classic, which follows much of the route of the old Tour of Flanders.
Riders are set to tackle the tough course and the forecasted bad weather on Saturday. The race leaves from downtown Gent and traces a winding route across the famed Flemish Ardennes, taking in ascents of the Leberg, Molenberg, Berendries, Kapelmuur, and Bosberg, among other climbs.
According to the team, van der Poel will also skip a planned reconnaissance ride of the Tour of Flanders route, which was set for Monday.
Van der Poel is not the only rider impacted by the flu—his teammate Sacha Modolo will be forced to skip Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne after suffering from the same illness.