Schleck, Sagan banged up ahead of Amstel Gold Race

Two top favorites suffer hard crashes at Brabantse Pijl

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Andy Schleck and Peter Sagan — two riders expected to be in the thick of Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race — are both nursing wounds after being involved in separate crashes in Wednesday’s Brabantse Pijl race in Belgium.

Schleck, who has already had a rough start to the 2012 season, crashed on his hand when a rider fell in front of him on rain-slickened roads.

Sagan, meanwhile, hit the deck in a heavy fall with about 25km to go. Both riders’ teams are hopeful their leaders will be ready for Amstel Gold, which opens the treble of Ardennes classics in Holland on Sunday.

Schleck is under observation by medical staff to be sure he did not suffer any fractures and RadioShack-Nissan officials said they are optimistic he will be able to start Amstel Gold.

“I wasn’t in the back. Three guys crashed in front of me so I couldn’t avoid it at all. I chased back and got to the bottom of the climb, so I shifted to the small ring and realized my bike was broken,” Schleck said on the team’s website. “I lost the peloton again.”

Schleck’s start to the 2012 season hasn’t gone well. A virus zapped him in March, forcing him to pull out of Paris-Nice after two stages. After recovering, horrible weather forced him out of the Volta a Catalunya.

After racing the Circuit de la Sarthe earlier this month in France, Schleck decided to race Brabantse Pijl because he felt he needed one more hard day of racing in his legs before the demands of the Amstel Gold circuit.

“The doctor said if my hand still hurts tomorrow I should have it x-rayed but I feel confident that there isn’t a problem. Before the crash I felt quite good,” Schleck said. “I’ve been lucky for two years with no crashes so I hope this was the last crash of the year.”

Liquigas-Cannondale officials, meanwhile, are hopeful Sagan will be able to start Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race following a heavy fall late in the race.

The Slovak sensation slipped on a descent on wet roads and landed hard on his right side with about 25km to go. Sagan was able to get back on his feet, with his jersey and shorts ripped, but pulled out of the race as a precaution.

Team officials said that Sagan suffered heavy bruising to his right hip and shoulder from the high-speed impact.

“This race was a warm-up for the Amstel Gold Race and a crash was the last thing we wanted,” said team sport director Stefano Zanatta in a team release. “We will know more in the coming hours after a check at the hospital. At first glance, it seems that the consequences go beyond bruises and contusions.”

Sagan has enjoyed a fine spring classics campaign, winning the field sprint at Milan-San Remo to take fourth, coming up just short to Tom Boonen for second at Ghent-Wevelgem, and crossing the line second in the field sprint to take fifth at the Tour of Flanders.

Sagan skipped last weekend’s Paris-Roubaix and was targeting Amstel Gold Race as his next major goal.

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