Howes hasn't raced since he withdrew following the fifth stage of the Tour of Utah last season due to illness. But now, after being diagnosed and treated for a hereditary condition, hyperthyroidism, he is set to make his return in South America on February 12.
"Not knowing is probably the worst thing that there is," Howes said. "If you don't know what the problem is, there is no way that you are going to fix it. You think that your body is your body and, especially as a professional athlete, it does what you want it to do.
"You put in the orders, and the body responds, but that was totally not the case. I was putting in the work and telling my body what to do, and it was just giving me the big middle finger."
Howes, who has completed all five Grand Tours he has taken part in, was unable to line up for the final stage in Utah back in August, which he said was a horrible feeling.
"To me, it’s an awful feeling to climb off," he said. "I really do just hate it, so I try not to do it. Sometimes, I'm out on the road, and my job for the day is done, and the option is there, but you know, I don't want to quit. Quitting sucks. Some guys definitely get used to it.
"Utah's a hard race, but I've done the Tour de France a couple of times and all the Grand Tours. I've done the hardest races there are, and Utah is not one of the hardest races in the world. I didn't finish it. I pulled the plug on the last day."
The American rider took a long time off following Utah but is now ready to return. And although he admits there is still a long way to go, he is looking forward to getting back to racing as a domestique for his EF Education First team leaders Rigoberto Uran and Michael Woods, along with new recruit Tejay van Garderen.
"Right now, is, I think, for me personally, the biggest test," he said. "You know, we talk about overcoming, but I haven't overcome just yet. I really do like working for a good leader.
"On our team, we are pretty fortunate in that our top dogs are really good guys to work for. Mike Woods and Rigo - there's nothing but appreciation from both of those guys and a lot of fun. They make it pretty easy to want to work for them. And definitely with Tejay coming on board next year — I’ve been friends with Tejay for going on 17 years now."
The 2019 Tour Colombia 2.1 will be the second edition of the UCI stage race in Colombia. The race was named Colombia Oro y Paz last year. The six stage race runs from Tuesday, February 12, to Sunday, February 17. Egan Bernal took the overall win in last year’s inaugural race.