Mark Cavendish insisted on walking back to his cabin to show his wife and children he was alright before being taken to hospital after breaking two ribs and "ripping a hole in his lung" in a horror on-track crash.
The Briton was taking part in the last race of a cycling event in Ghent, Belgium, last Sunday when he and another rider crashed out.
Cavendish said it was "a freak accident" which had been caused by a spilled drink from a rider in front.
"There was a slip of wheels in front which started a chain reaction and caused the crash," he told The Sun. "I landed on a bike, broke my ribs and ripped a hole in my lung.
"The hole is behind my heart, which complicates things and makes it harder to monitor, because it doesn’t show on X-rays, but I’ll survive."
He didn't know all those details in the immediate aftermath of the crash – all the 36-year-old could feel was the searing pain across his chest.
But he knew he had to play down the amount of agony he was in, so that his young family did not worry too much.
"When I crashed I knew I’d done some damage and was in a bad way, that scares you," he continued.
"But the kids were there and my instinct was to stand up so they’d know I’m okay.
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"I walked back to the cabins we stay in at the velodrome and when they’d gone I was stretchered off to hospital."
A winner of 34 Tour de France stages – no-one has managed more in the competition's history – Cavendish has quashed retirement rumours with some superb performances in 2021.
He won four stages in Turkey before adding another victory in the Tour of Belgium, and was Team Deceuninck-Quick-Step's lead sprinter as he won the points classification for the second time in his career at the Tour de France.
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Despite these serious injuries, he was released from the intensive care unit on Thursday and hopes to be back riding again in the New Year.
More than that, he wants to "win as much as he can" before he does eventually call time on an illustrious career.
"There’s no specific number I want to reach," he said, referring to the Tour de France stage wins record he jointly holds with the legendary Eddy Merckx.
"I feel fortunate to be able to do what I love and I’m fortunate that I’m in a position that I can choose what I want to do after in my career."
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