By Jonny Long
Belgian cycling great Eddy Merckx has made his first public appearance since he fell off his bike in October but admits he is still not back to full fitness.
The 74-year-old was out on a Sunday ride with friends when he crashed, suffering a haemorrhage and briefly losing consciousness.
After a week in hospital Merckx was allowed to return home and six weeks later was well enough to make his first public appearance since the ordeal.
The appearance in question was at the Crystal Bicycle, an award given out by Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws to their nation's rider of the year.
Remco Evenepoel took home the honours after a breakthrough season that included a fantastic solo ride to win the Clásica San Sebastián, while Patrick Lefevere won best manager for the third year in a row and Tim Declerq took best domestique, making it three wins for Deceuninck - Quick-Step. Sanne Cant won best female rider.
Although Merckx was allowed to hand out the awards he was only permitted to be out for half an hour by his doctors, "my health no longer allows more," Merckx said, as he continues to recover from the mystery ailment after the fall.
"The doctors don't know what exactly happened. My heart has been checked, that was fine," the Belgian told Het Nieuwsblad, before adding that walking is still a struggle but that he still hopes to get back on the bike one day.
"Walking is still difficult at the moment, because I have been standing still for a long time after the accident. It is not yet optimal. Slowly I should be able to ride the bike again. That should improve."
Things could have been a lot worse for Merckx, though, who explains that he still can't understand how he crashed, and that he was very fortunate a nurse was in the area at the time, who helped him regain consciousness.
"I stopped and wanted to click my foot out of my pedal. I don't know anything after that. Fortunately there was a nurse in the area , that was my great luck. She brought me back to consciousness."
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races. I'm 6'0", 26 years old, have a strong hairline and have an adequate amount of savings for someone my age. I'm very single at the minute so if you know anyone, hit me up.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab, reporting about students evacuating their bowels on nightclub dancefloors and consecrating their love on lecture hall floors. I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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