When Ben Swift looks back on the fifth stage of the 2011 Tour de France in years to come he may have happier memories than those he shared in the aftermath of a tense, dangerous day.
The 23-year-old from Dinnington is enjoying his first experience of the Tour with British-based Team Sky.
But the nervousness of the peloton, which led to five crashes yesterday, is leaving its mark - almost literally.
“It is probably the dodgiest race I have ever been involved in,” he told The Star. “Everyone is so compact and nervous. We were flying along all day at about 45kph which is around 30 miles per hour.
“I don’t remember much about it, everything was just going so fast.”
One thing Swift won’t forget is being caught in a pile-up 103km from the finish.
“I managed to stop but people behind me didn’t and I ended up on my back in a ditch. I couldn’t get my toes from my clips, so I was stuck. Bradley (Wiggins, Sky’s team leader) was in it as well, so the whole team dropped back and we got back to the front. It’s hard to get going again because your legs fill with lactic acid - I’m OK though,” he said.
The 164.5km stage from Carhaix to Cap Frehel was eventually won by British sprint star Mark Cavendish.
Swift and team-mate Edvald Boasson Hagen decided the latter was better placed to contest the sprint.
Swift said: “I wasn’t feeling great, so Edvald went for it.”
The Norwegian’s burst was caught 200 metres from the line by the pack as Cavendish stormed through.
Today the Tour heads into Normandy with another undulating stage that will do nothing for the increasingly anxious peloton.
With Wiggins still well placed just 10 seconds behind Thor Hushovd in the yellow jersey, Swift said the team is his first priority.
“I’m here as a sprinter but keeping Bradley in one piece is the most important thing. If we do that and he’s happy then we can decide if I go for it or not.” he explained.
Stage six - today: Dinan to Lisieux (226.5km).
The longest stage of the 2011 Tour takes place in Normandy. A day of undulating terrain and a steep hill with one mile remaining could prove decisive. It may be a day for a puncheur like Philippe Gilbert or even Cadel Evans.