I smashed my left ankle when I was going at 80 km an hour on a wet descent, in the very early stages of the Tour de France which I was expected to win. In those conditions the smallest mistakes can have the largest consequences, which is exactly what happened.

When I came off the bike I thought I'd just badly twisted my ankle. I was very surprised when I learned how bad the fracture was. I lost about 25 per cent mobility and now there's lots of scar tissue which makes the ankle look bigger.

My immediate reaction after the accident was relief. I couldn't race, and frankly I had the first good summer holiday I'd had for 20 years. After a while, the media focus went elsewhere so I had a nice quiet time at home. I'd also broken my right wrist and had to hold a crutch with my left hand, so the biggest frustration was that I didn't have a free hand. I went to see a Rolling Stones recording session in Brixton and at one point I was on my own with all this wonderful food on the table, but I couldn't actually help myself to any.

Recovery was worse than the accident and I was in pain for a long time. Over a year later I still have problems. During my convalescence I lost about 30 per cent muscle mass in my left calf and thigh and, even after electrical stimulation and a year back in competitive cycling, they still look different.

There were two 5cm steel pins in my ankle holding six fractures together and I competed a whole season with them in. I had them taken out about five weeks ago and a lot of the aches and pains have gone. But I feel there's slightly more pressure on my left ankle now, and it looks like I'll get arthritis when I'm older. I wanted to enter competitive running after my cycling, but the chances of doing that seem unlikely now. I'm lucky I live near a beach so I can run on soft ground. Athletes finish their careers when they've had enough of giving out what it takes. I'm still increasing my input, but at a slower rate than before the accident. I'm training for next season at the moment, but hairy descents in the rain will always be in the back of my mind.

Interview by Cayte Williams