Smit, who rides for the Swiss-based Katusha-Alpecin, sustained a fractured collarbone after crashing out of stage two of the Volta ao Algarve a month ago, so he “did not expect much” heading into the tour, he said.
“Seeing that it was the kick-start to my first year riding in the WorldTour scene, I really had to work hard after the injury.
“Even though I have been in a lot of pain [prior to the tour], I had to put in many hours to be up and ready.
“At the end of the day if I wasn’t ready they would have just put someone else in my place. I really wanted to be there for the team.”
Smit said he mainly played a supportive role at the tour. “I did what I had to do to help our general classification riders,” he said.
“That included keeping them out of the wind, bringing them bottles, making sure they were in the right places at the right times and helping them with punctures – that was my job.”
Smit described the tour as “one of the hardest” weeklong tours on the WorldTour calendar.
“It was really tough, especially against 50 of the world’s best climbers,” he said.
Aside from the strong field his collarbone injury gave him difficulties throughout the tour, Smit said.
“I wasted quite a lot of time and energy having to stop on top of mountains to put on my jacket. On some of the summits with the wind-chill factor the temperature would drop to minus five to eight degrees.
“I had to stop many times because I was not able to bend my arm far back enough [to put it through the sleeve]. This was because of my clavicle [collarbone] strain.
“With every bump, I could feel the plate pushing against my skin and bone. It was really uncomfortable at times.
“My confidence also was not up there as it was my first race back since the injury. Going down mountains at high speeds and having to manoeuvre around sketchy corners with snow beside the road was scary.
“At the end of the day, my adrenalin helped a lot though,” he added.
The former RoadCover rider made it into the breakaway group on the final stage of the tour, but he suggested that their team set-up made it easier for him to get ahead.
“The bigger the team, the less responsibility you have of being in the break,” he said. “Once you are in a WorldTour team it is not such a big thing [being in the break] as it is for the smaller teams.
“It all mainly depends on whether you have a rider in contention for the overall victory or not. Our objective was to look after our lead riders.
“It was good being in the breakaway, especially for team exposure, but that was not necessarily what it [the race] was about for us.
“But I think I showed good form and good legs to make it [into the break]. It showed promising signs, despite not necessarily winning the stage.”
Despite his injury setbacks over the last month, Smit feels his form is returning.
“My form, after some rest following the tour, should be on a decent level.
“I am racing again this coming Saturday and next week, where I will serve a real domestique role to support our team leaders – some of the world’s best climbers and riders.
“Those will be important events for me, to support them and try to keep them in the front and out of trouble.”