On November 15 last year, Van Winden underwent an operation to his iliac artery to address a condition that had impacted his cycling performances for four years.
"I didn't have energy in my right leg, and I was producing more and more lactate," he said.
He had to undergo four surgeries in a short period of time.
"The surgery was successful but a band in the artery created a bacterial infection in my blood," Van Winden told Cyclingnews.
"It didn't heal on time. The main artery was bleeding. It was painful. I couldn't feel my leg anymore. The pressure from inside was getting high. I had a 42-degree fever when I was at the hospital. I had to call a doctor if I wanted to do anything, like eating. They were scared that I'd faint."
His hematocrit dropped to 17 and his hemoglobin to 4.1 for eight days.
"Under 5.5, it's critical," he said.
"The doctors told me that I'd never ride a bike anymore," he said. "But I was in a survival mood. I wasn't thinking too much, so I never believed what they said about my cycling."
"I didn't touch the bike for six months. The first rides were very slow and no longer than half an hour. I improved a lot after I resumed racing with the Rund um Köln at the end of May, but to recover 100% of my capacities was very difficult. I kept on fighting."
"I've worked very hard to be a pro cyclist, I didn't want my career to end so quickly. The team has always supported me. In my first races back, I tried to help, but I couldn't do much until the Tour of Beijing, my first World Tour race where I could finally do good work for the team."
Van Winden has one more year on his current contract, and he is prepared for next season.
"I feel my body is totally reset and prepared for a great season next year," he said.