Cycling fans feared the worst when they saw Geraint Thomas flying off the side of the Col de Manse in a spectacular crash on stage 16 of the Tour de France.
The Team Sky man was hit from the side by Giant-Alpecin‘s Warren Barguil and was sent careering into a ravine at the side of the road, bouncing off a telegraph pole before coming to a halt.
Miraculously, Thomas bounced straight back up, got a new bike, and finished the stage as if nothing had happened, losing just 40 seconds of time in the process.
Speaking to the BBC’s Tom Fordyce about the incident, and the other highlights of his 2015 season, Thomas explained his thought process as he flew through the air.
“I didn’t know who it was [that hit me]. One minute I’m descending, the next I’m ‘T-boned’. Heading straight for a telegraph pole, and just knowing, ‘oh no, I’m going to hit that, but where am I going to hit it?’
“I remember seeing people scarpering, and then just managed to twist my head to try to take away a little of the impact.
“One moment you’re focusing on your line and getting down the descent safely, and the next you’re going down a ravine.”
Highlights of the Tour de France stage 16
At the time of the crash, Thomas was sitting in sixth place in the general classification, just 90 seconds off the podium.
Somehow, the Welshman got to his feet and only lost 40 seconds to his rivals on the stage, helped to the line by teammate Wout Poels.
“The mechanics got my spare bike off the roof, and I was up and back on it in 30 seconds. You don’t really think about it afterwards because of all the adrenaline,” he added.
“I didn’t look any further down the ravine. I’m not the biggest fan of heights, so it wouldn’t have been a good thing looking down.
“And that’s what happens on every crash – you don’t think about where you are or what you’re doing, all you think about is where’s my bike, and let’s get going.
“It’s when you can’t do that that you know you’re in trouble.”
Geraint Thomas: where it all began
Thomas kept a good sense of humour after the crash, pretending that the incident had addled his brain to the extent that he thought he was Chris Froome.
His biggest loss at the time was his trademark white Oakley sunglasses, which never came out of the ravine, but by the time he reached Paris, in 15th place, he was irked about the time difference to his foe, Barguil.
“This crash was great, really. It was on TV, it looked spectacular and I was all right – apart from losing 40 seconds. As someone pointed out, Barguil actually finished 30 seconds ahead of me in the general classification come Paris. I still haven’t forgiven him.”