Greg Van Avermaet has received a minor blow to his hopes this spring as Michael Schar, one of his closest BMC Racing domestiques, was ruled out of the entire Classics campaign after a crash at Paris-Nice.
The Swiss rider, who has helped Van Avermaet to back-to-back Omloop Het Nieuwsblad titles, hit the deck 20km from the finish of Sunday's opening stage, and x-rays showed that he suffered non-displaced fractures to his right collarbone and right iliac bone.
Schar will be sidelined for at least a month, the BMC team confirmed on Monday.
"Fortunately, the fractures are non-displaced so no surgery is required at this stage. His injuries will take more time to heal without surgery but given he has fractured two parts of his body the recovery period is longer in any case," said BMC doctor Giovanni Ruffini.
"Michael will need between four and six weeks off the bike, after which he can train on the rollers and slowly return to a normal training load. We will continue to monitor Michael's recovery progress and with any luck he will be able to return sooner than expected."
The spring Classics begin in earnest later this month with Milan-San Remo on March 18, followed by Dwars door Vlaanderen the following week, which kicks off the three-week cobbled Classics period.
Four weeks off would mean Schar could be back on a bike ahead of Paris-Roubaix on April 9, but by then he would have lost a crucial bulk of his form. It remains to be seen if he can make it back for the Ardennes races later in April, with Amstel Gold Race on the 16th a particular target for Van Avermaet.
"We were in the second group with Richie Porte trying to chase the front group back. After the cobbled section I was behind Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and he went into the gutter once, which was dirt, and then a second time, and then he went down right in front of me. I went down and immediately felt my collarbone and then I tried to stand up and I couldn't stand on my feet so I thought that something wasn't right with my hip," Schär explained.
"It's very painful, especially the hip, and above all I'm just really disappointed to start the race like this and put my season on hold again."