Five-time Tour de France winner Eddy Merckx has told the Belgian press that he's still recovering from the bike crash he had in mid-October, in which he sustained a serious head injury, but made his first public appearance since the accident at the Belgian Kristallen Fiets awards evening in Vilvoorde, just north of Brussels, on Wednesday.
Merckx was on hand at what translates as the 'Crystal Bike' awards to present best male rider Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) with his prize, but told Het Nieuwsblad ahead of the ceremony that he only intended to spend half an hour there as he continues to convalesce following the crash, and is "still not 100 per cent".
"The people from the awards organisation will collect me and then take me home again," Merckx explained. "I'll stay for a maximum of half an hour, as my health won't allow me to stay any longer."
The 74-year-old was riding with friends on October 13, but remembers little about what happened, while doctors are also still unsure about what happened, he said.
"I stopped and wanted to unclip my foot from my pedal, and don't remember anything after that," he said.
A nurse who was passing by was able to help, and Merckx was taken to hospital, where he stayed for five days, and has since undergone a number of scans.
"The doctors still don't know exactly what happened. My heart has also been checked, and that was fine," he said.
Merckx said that he was still experiencing pain in his back, hip and knees.
"Walking is also still difficult at the moment because I had to stay in bed for a long time after the accident," he said. "So it's not great. But slowly I should be able to start riding my bike again, and that should help make everything better."