• Mitch Docker (Orica-GreenEdge) pictured here in the 2016 Criterium du Dauphine prologue is out to reinvent himself (Sirotti)Source: Sirotti
Mitch Docker (Orica-GreenEdge) has outlined a will to reinvent himself as a bike racer on his return to competition at the Criterium du Dauphine following a crash that left him with severe facial injuries.
Sophie Smith

7 Jun 2016 - 8:59 AM  UPDATED 7 Jun 2016 - 10:55 AM

The 29-year-old earned national applause on Monday when he featured in the main breakaway of stage one, almost two months to the day he was found bloodied in the Arenberg Forest at Paris-Roubaix and later diagnosed with a broken cheekbone, nose and teeth.

“I’m a long way still from being back to racing form but today was about just finding my legs and this is a hard race so I thought it would be good to be in the break, and that way I can set my own pace,” Docker told Cycling Central.

“It’s been a really nice comeback. I’ve been taking it easy and doing my own plan, I haven’t been trying to worry about coming back quickly.

"I know it’s going to be a long way before I’m going to be in form and I just want to take my time coming back for the end of the season.”

Docker bridged to Frederik Backaert (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) in the opening kilometres of the 186km sprint stage from Clues to Saint-Vulbas and the pair built up an advantage of around four minutes.

Tinkoff, with race leader Alberto Contador, contributed to the chase before Docker sat-up with 20km remaining, leaving Backaert out alone a little longer before the sprint teams took up the race and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) claimed line honours.

“It was a hard day for sure but the good thing was it was constant,” Docker said.

“I think the hard thing for me at the moment will be the change of speed and in the peloton that’s what happens, they go up the climb way too fast and then they go down the descent really slow. Whereas in the breakaway me and my compatriot out there we just rode our pace, which suited me. I didn’t really think about that before it and then actually when I was out there I was like, ‘oh shit, this is actually the best thing I could have done.”

Docker admitted he was uncertain if he would get through the whole tour, which serves for a lot here as a Tour de France prelude, on current form.

The lead-out specialist, with his strategy on Monday, was clear of an aggressive sprint final in which Cofidis and Alexander Kristoff’s Katusha outfit literally butted heads within the final three kilometres.

“It’s going to be good just to get back into the peloton tomorrow and try and get through it really easily and see how far I can go here,” he said. “I don’t want to come out of here in a big hole so it could mean that I might not necessarily get through this race. I think I’ve just got to wait and see how much I can handle at this moment.

“I don’t remember the crash so it’s not like I’m thinking I’m going to crash again. It’s nice being back here and I think I want to come back in a different way and try and recreate myself as a rider. So that’s what I’m thinking about at the moment.”