Warren Barguil admits he and his Giant-Alpecin teammates laughed about the accident that left him and five other riders in hopsital, but now says they realise how lucky they were to escape without serious injury.
Barguil and a group of teammates, including Classics champion John Degenkolb, were hit head-on by a British motorist driving on the wrong side of the road on Saturday.
The French rider, who finished 14th at the Tour de France in 2015, described how the group were riding at around 50kph when the collision occurred.
He told a press conference in his hometown of Hennebont on Wednesday: “It was the first day of training camp. We quietly returned to our hotel. I was to do a relay. At that time, a car 300 meters away took a turn.
“I thought she was coming too fast, since it was on the left lane. It’s not that she was going too fast, but she was driving normally and remained left. She did not stop, but continued straight. She braked at first impact. I was riding at 47kph, and at 50kph.
“There was no pavement, the [side of the road was stones. So I moved to the right before impact.”
He added: “The first three days, we laughed more after the accident, played it down because it was soon after the drama. I thought, it must be positive. But since yesterday (Tuesday), I begin to realise that we have all been able to get through. When I think about it, it’s chilling.”
But Barguil, who could lead the team’s general classification hopes at the Tour de France in July, says there is no time to dwell on the crash.
He suffered a broken wrist in the accident, but insists he will be back to 100 per cent fitness in time for the Ardennes Classics in April.
“It is in the past, now we must look ahead,” he said. “We cannot continue to think about it because if you think about it, we will not move forward.
“We’re all competitors, that’s what makes us tick. I think getting back on the bike as fast as I can will make me forget this accident. It’s like when you fall off a horse, you must get straight back up, as they say.”
A 73-year-old British woman was arrested by police in Spain and charged with reckless driving and imprudence. Degenkolb has returned to Germany for treatment on a broken arm and finger injuries.
Barguil himself will require surgery on his wrist, while American Chad Haga does not need surgery on his eye socket now that swelling has reduced.
Max Walscheid broke his arm in the accident, while Ramon Sinkeldam and Fredrik Ludvigsson escaped with cuts and bruises.