Tim Declercq survived what he described as "one of the hardest days ever on the bike" to stay in the Tour de France on Saturday and will fight the pain of his crash injuries on Sunday to try to reach Andorra and Monday’s second rest day.
The Deceuninck-QuickStep domestique has played a key role in helping Mark Cavendish win four stages, chasing down the breakaways on each stage so that the Manxman could strut his stuff in the sprints.
Declercq was voted the best domestique in the world in 2020 by his fellow professional riders in a Cyclingnews poll.
However, the Belgian rider was involved in the stage 13 crash that saw several riders fly into a ravine. He was cleared by race and team doctors to race on but was dropped several times in the high-speed two hours of racing before the breakaway went away on stage 14.
Declercq dug deep to stay in contact with the peloton in the first half of the stage and managed to finish in the gruppetto along with Cavendish and several teammates, 25:34 down on stage winner Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo).
"That was one of my hardest days ever on the bike. Of course I knew it before the start, the level is so high here. If you are a little less than your best then you know that it will be hard work," Declercq told Sporza.
"There was something holding me back, I couldn’t open up as I usually do. Fortunately I was still able to ride at a decent pace but it was a day to forget."
Understanding of concussion in the peloton has improved massively in recent years and Declercq insisted he was okay to continue in the Tour after being carefully monitored.
"The medical staff took good care of me. The doctor of the organization also checked me during the race. I don't have any fractures, but I was a bit groggy after the fall, so there was some concern about a concussion. Then some tests were done and I was good enough to continue the Tour."
Stage 14 climbed into the Pyrenean foothills but Sunday’s stage is a high mountain stage and climbs the 2408m-high Port d’Envalira, the highest point of this year’s race.
Declercq is ready to suffer so that he can enjoy the second rest day in Andorra and make it through the Pyrenees and so make it to Paris.
"This was perhaps the hardest day. I still have to survive and then the rest day will be more welcome than ever," he said.
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