Former downhill world champion Fabien Barel has broken his leg in a crash just a week before this year's first World Cup round.
The injury-prone Frenchman had to sit out most of the 2009 season after dislocating his knee at the first round in South Africa, but upon his return managed to top the podium in Maribor, Slovenia.
He was due to return there this weekend for the first World Cup race of 2010, but while testing his bike setup at Sospel Bike Park, near Nice, on Friday he landed a jump slightly off line.
The Mondraker Factory Team rider's wheel got stuck in a rut and he went down hard – all while travelling at more than 50km/h. He caught his leg between the frame and the ground, snapping his femur.
After being taken to hospital by helicopter, it was discovered he had also injured his wrist and was suffering from concussion. Doctors say it will take him two to three months to recover, meaning he would miss at least the first three rounds of this year's World Cup series.
In a press release, the Mondraker Factory Team said: "This comes as a hard blow for Fabien as he was feeling at the top of his form – faster and more confident than ever before. He was comfortable on the bike and both physically and mentally strong. He's had an amazing start to the season, winning almost everything he's entered. Despite all of this, Fabien is still as motivated as ever and will do everything it takes to be back soon."
Barel said: "It is, for sure, a big disappointment for me a week before the first World Cup. We did an amazing job over the winter and I was ready to start rocking on the circuit. Being stopped in this way is tough but part of the game."