Dutch sprinter Fabio Jakobsen says he suffered some moments of anguish in the heat of the action on his return to racing at the Tour of Turkey on Sunday, eight months after a horrifying, life-threatening high-speed crash.
The 24-year-old was given a standing ovation at the start of the race after fighting his way back from his injuries which included several skull fractures as well as losing all his teeth at the Tour of Poland last year.
Riding with the elite level Deceuninck Quick-Step team on this second level Tour, and chaperoned by veteran British rider Mark Cavendish, Jakobsen expressed relief at the line and admitted it had been a mixed experience.
"I must admit that in the beginning, when they (the fast moving peloton) went right and left and the bunch had to brake a couple of times, I got a bit scared," Jakobsen said of the technically challenging inner-city route.
"The goal was to conclude the day," said Jakobsen, one of the fastest men in bike racing and champion of the Netherlands at the time of his crash.
"With ten kilometres to go, I got lost a bit and couldn't be there for the team in the finale, but being able to conclude my first race in so many months makes me proud and gives me a lot of confidence," he said after the short 72.4km run.
The Dutchman finished safely and was seen grinning broadly after the finish line.
"Today was a great day," he told his team website.
Cavendish was looking for his own first win in three years.
The 35-year-old has 30 Tour de France stage wins and appears finally to be shaking off a long slump after sickness.
Arvid de Kleijn of Rally Cycling won Sunday's bunch sprint in a photo finish from Kristoffer Halvorsen.
Cavendish came fourth, stepping off the gas when he saw he could no longer win.
After an unseasonable snowstorm Saturday, Tour of Turkey organisers announced they would have to cancel the opener, a mountainous run to 1500m altitude at Urgup in the centre of the country.
But they then salvaged it by switching the venue and staging a short, flat race instead.
Monday's second stage is a 144.9km circuit that will begin and end in Konya.