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Possible Paris-Nice return for Schleck following Ruta del Sol crash

Trek Factor Racing officials are hopeful Fränk Schleck can return to competition in time for Paris-Nice early next month

Fränk Schleck, who suffered a high-speed crash in the opening stage of Ruta del Sol last week, is a long shot to challenge for Paris-Nice next month.

Trek Factory Racing officials confirmed that Schleck, 34, is healing “slowly but steadily” from a hematoma in his thigh, but he still has been unable to train on his bike.

“It’s healing slowly, but steadily, so that’s relatively good news,” a Trek official wrote to VeloNews in an e-mail. “It’s still unclear what this means for his race program, except that we have to be fair, and admit that Paris-Nice cannot be a real goal for him anymore.”

There is still an outside chance Schleck might be able to start Paris-Nice (March 8-15), but officials admitted he won’t be in condition to seriously challenge for the podium.

Schleck is able to ride the rollers, but might not be able to get back on the bike until the end of this week, leaving him short of race fitness ahead of Paris-Nice.

Schleck crashed heavily in the morning sector of Ruta del Sol on Wednesday in a massive pileup as the peloton was setting up the sprint finale. There was some initial fear that the veteran Luxembourger might have broken his leg, but exams later revealed no fractures. MRIs, however, confirmed deep tissue damage in his leg.

Trek sport director Kim Andersen said last week that it’s impossible to know when Schleck will be able to return to racing in top condition.

“It was a deep hematoma, and the muscle in his leg has been damaged, so we have to wait,” Andersen told VeloNews. “Fränk had a very good winter, and he is strong. It was bad luck.”

The team is hopeful Schleck can return for Critérium International, which he won in 2011, at the end of March before tackling the first major goals of the season at such races as the Vuelta al País Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) and the Ardennes classics.