Theuns had a breakthrough spring in 2016 during his WorldTour debut but crashed out of the Tour de France, sustaining a serious back injury that kept him out of the bulk of the year.
He suffered a compressed fracture of the T12 vertebra in the fall, and after surgery spent several weeks in a chest brace. He began training in the winter, and although he was only given the all-clear to ride on the Belgian cobbles this month, he has come on leaps and strides.
Eighth on stage 1 at the Tour Down Under was backed up by fifth on stage 3, and although the back is still an issue, the 25-year-old is growing in fitness, form and confidence
"I’m still in some pain. For a stage like the one to Paracombe I could feel that we had been climbing but in general the sensations are okay and in general I don’t have any problems with it. If we’ve been climbing for a while and then I stretch, I can really feel it but most of the pain actually comes after the race because when I’m racing there’s more adrenaline," he told Cyclingnews at the race.
"I want to try and keep sprinting," he said, with two more sprint stages on the cards.
"I’m not back at 100 per cent for the sprints but I’m getting there and the team is doing a really good job. I’m getting back into the sprinting habits, and I know that I’ll get there again. I want to go for them."
While the results at the Tour Down Under have been promising, the all clear from the medical to ride on the Cobbles was a massive relief for Theuns. It means that he can keep his ideal race programme for the spring, and although he will work for others in the major Monuments, he fully expects to have his own chances to shine.
"I’ve done one recon ride before I left for Australia and that went well. I looked at the cobbles for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Having that ride was good for my confidence before I came here for Tour Down Under."
"I’ll do the same programme and we’ll see how I do. I want be good for the opening weekend in Belgium and I want to go for my own chances in some of the smaller Classics. In the big Classics it’s more for Jasper Stuyven and John Degenkolb, so I hope to support them there."