The Belgian crashed dramatically at Il Lombardia at the end of last season and considered himself lucky to only come away with a fractured knee-cap.
After some time on crutches he was able to start training again but suffered another accident during a January pre-season training camp in South Africa, where he broke his pelvis after he and teammate Petr Vakoc were hit by a truck. He later acknowledged that the mental scars were perhaps greater than the physical as he suffered flashbacks.
De Plus finally pinned a dossard on again on Tuesday at Eschborn-Frankfurt, the one-day WorldTour race in Germany, and not only did he get round, he animated the race too. On the second ascent of the Mammolshain climb, he made it into a seven-man group that clipped clear of the peloton and linked up with the three leaders to make a dangerous group of 10. They carried a lead onto the finishing circuit and threatened to upset the sprinters, with De Plus holding out until the group started attacking each other with 10km to go.
"In the beginning, I had to find myself again and the feeling in the bunch and corners but after 30 kilometers I forgot I've ever had a break, I was just back at it, feeling good and even enjoying the pain in the legs," De Plus said.
"I am really happy I could be present in the race and breakaway after so many months off. I was surprised I could do so well on the climbs, although after 200 kilometers the hammer dropped and I was completely empty."
With an encouraging comeback under his belt, De Plus can look ahead with confidence to the rest of his season. After more training this week he'll head to the USA next week to race the Tour of California, which is held from May 13-19.
"After so many months away, I was a bit stressed and nervous before the race, but now I am just super excited to be back and I can't wait to go to the US, where I fly to Monday, after a few days of hard training coming up," he said. "It's really great to be back with the boys and the staff."
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