Philippe Gilbert has spoken of his fear after crashing and flying headfirst over a wall during a drama-filled stage 16 of the Tour de France.
Fans were left stunned when the former world champion went hurtling over the wall and disappeared from vision.
It later emerged that he fell onto rocks but amazingly, he got back on his bike and finished the stage before withdrawing from the race.
“My Tour is over,” said Gilbert, who sustained a left knee injury.
“It was not so bad, it was not so deep I think about four metres, but there were a lot of stones, and when I lay there, I thought: ‘I broke everything’.
“I did not dare to move at first. I was waiting, but fortunately they [helpers] were pretty quick.
I have a lot of pain and my knee is badly battered, but I think I did not break anything, fortunately.”
Understandable panic followed Gilbert’s crash.
Italian rider Fabio Casartelli died on the same stage in 1995.
Quick-Step Floors team director Brian Holm said he was relieved that Gilbert was still alive.
“When you hear them scream, you know they’re alive,” Holm said. “When you don’t hear anything, you start to get stressed.
“You look down and see … ‘holy f––k, he went down’. It was pretty far down.
“It was a few metres down. There were some rocks – it wasn’t like a soft forest he landed on.
“As soon as I saw him, he was swearing. That was a good sign. You knew he was in one piece.”
A Quick-Step spokesman said that Gilbert had been “taken to hospital in Toulouse for further scans”.
A further update on his condition and injuries will be announced in the coming days.