Laurens De Plus has opened up about his second serious crash and injury in the space of a few months, saying the psychological impact has been greater than the physical in an interview with Belgian broadcaster Sporza.
After fracturing his knee in a dramatic crash at Il Lombardia in October, the 22-year-old broke his pelvis last month when he and Quick-Step Floors teammate Petr Vakoc were hit by a truck while training in South Africa in preparation for the 2018 season.
On both occasions, the crashes could potentially have had much more severe consequences, which, combined with their proximity, has taken its toll psychologically.
"The mental damage was certainly great in the first weeks. I had the feeling that everything was lost," De Plus told Sporza.
"It can be over from one day to the next, and you realise that. Vakoc and I were in the hospital together. You can raise your thumb for an Instagram photo, but I do not want anyone to see what we experienced there.
"There have been very very difficult moments, which I sometimes still have, especially when I consider that it could have been even worse. I had just had my crash in Lombardy, and then this happened. The mental damage has perhaps been even greater than the physical."
De Plus says he has had a great deal of support, from friends and family to team doctors and professional psychologists, but it's still been tough to overcome.
"Sometimes the film plays out again in my sleep, and then it all comes back," he said. "That will be part of the processing process, but I still have to try to get it out of my mind."
De Plus says it is likely that he will make a full recovery and be able to make the most of a promising career. He still has to use crutches but is set to start riding again indoors next week.
Originally he was due to ride the Giro d'Italia in May, as he did last year, but his 2018 schedule is still up in the air.
"In South Africa I felt that I was growing towards my top form. Now I have to start from scratch again. The big goal this year was the Giro d'Italia and I still hope for that, but I also have to be realistic - first see how everything evolves and then see when I can make my comeback," he said.
"I will assume that I will soon be able to find my top condition again. It is now a bit of a chase, but I still hope to catch up with the front runners.
"I have had a lot of support, from colleagues, friends, relatives, and even from people I did not expect. That has done a lot of good, and I’m dedicating myself to coming back. Also I get the feeling that after the crash in Lombardy I quickly got back into the good flow, and those two things strengthen me in my belief that I can still make it a great season."