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Van Avermaet, Demare, Benoot crash out of De Ronde

OUDENARDE, Belgium (VN) — Pre-race favorite Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) crashed out of Sunday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) with a broken collarbone.

Five BMC riders went down in a pileup with about 100km to go when it appeared riders clipped wheels, sending Van Avermaet toppling to the ground. Others were involved, but the Belgian star was the worst off, cradling his right shoulder. Van Avermaet looked to be on winning form following recent wins at Tirreno-Adriatico and Omloop Het Nieuwsblat, but he was transported to a local hospital instead with a broken collarbone.

BMC’s Taylor Phinney, making his major classics appearance in nearly two years, was also involved, but regained contact with the front group.

Other favorites also saw their chances end unceremoniously in what was an intense, nervous opening to the 100th edition of Flanders. Milano-Sanremo winner Arnaud Démare (FDJ) and Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal), fifth in his Flanders debut last year, also crashed out in early incidents.

In a separate incident, a team mechanic was struck from behind by a team car in the wake of another early pileup. The mechanic was carrying a wheel when a car hit him and knocked him to the ground. The mechanic appeared to get back to his feet, but there were no further details.