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Philipsen but no Van der Poel on latest start list for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

The provisional start list for Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad has been updated, with Jasper Philipsen drafted for Alpecin-Fenix after leaving the UAE Tour, but not Mathieu van der Poel.

The pair had to abandon the UAE Tour after stage 1 when a team staff member tested positive for COVID-19 coronavirus. Neither were considered close contacts and were quickly allowed to return home, sparking speculation over possible appearances this weekend.

While much of the speculation centred on Van der Poel, the Tour of Flanders champion has not been included in the latest squad submitted to the race organisers by Alpecin-Fenix.  However, Philipsen, a new signing from UAE Team Emirates, has been included, taking the place of Scott Thwaites. 

According to coronavirus protocols, riders must submit a negative PCR test six days and three days before the start of a one-day race. The 22-year-old Belgian passed the first of those hurdles during the round of tests that caught his staff member’s case in the UAE on Sunday. He will have had to submit another negative result in Belgium on Wednesday morning.

It is unclear why Van der Poel has not been included in the latest start list, although it is still provisional. Alpecin-Fenix are yet to formally announce their seven-man squad. 

Elsewhere, Peter Sagan has been removed from the start list last published on February 19. The three-time world champion recently tested positive for coronavirus and it was already indicated he would delay his season start. He has been replaced in Bora-Hansgrohe’s lineup by Ide Schelling.

Michael Valgren, who fractured his hand in his first race for EF Education-Nippo at the Étoile de Bessèges, has also been removed, replaced by Mitch Docker. 

Michael Schär, one of AG2R Citroën’s new signings for the Classics, will miss the race as his wife is expecting the birth of their child. He is replaced by Julien Duval.

Alpecin-Fenix will race again at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on Sunday. Although the start list for that race has yet to be updated, Philipsen would likely also take part there given his sprinting abilities.

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