“I WOULD be dead or seriously injured and in a vegetative state if it wasn’t for my helmet.”

These are the words of an Andover man after he was caught up in a collision while racing his bicycle and skidded for 50 metres, bleeding, across tarmac.

John Penfound, of St Swithin Way, is still recovering after the accident in a race at Thruxton circuit on August 14 when he was leant into by another rider and the pair became tangled.

“Most of us are just worried about damaging our bikes rather than ourselves, except for this one rider on my left side who leaned on me and I thought ‘what are you doing’ and then his handlebars got caught up in mine.”

John’s bike collapsed and his helmeted head hit the tarmac.

“I went down and my head smacked the tarmac and I just began to slide – the paramedics reckon I must have slid about 50 metres on my head.

“I can just remember thinking ‘please stop’, I just seemed to be sliding for ages. It felt as if my face was on a cheese grater.

“There was blood spurting out everywhere and my step-son, Harvey McLean, ran over to me and just told me to keep lying down.”

The computer hardware engineer was treated by paramedics before being taken to Basingstoke hospital.

“They said to me without that helmet you would have died, or the impact of the skid would have caused your skull to have been worn away.”

The step-dad of two was sent to Guildford hospital the next day where he received 60 stitches for his wounds.

He has now been coming to terms with what happened.

“Apart from the stitches I was lucky, I didn’t break anything or knock out any teeth.”

As part of his recovery, John was given a surprise from his sister Julie who sent him on a message from his idol and Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas.

In the message, Geraint wished John a speedy recovery and said he understands what the 46-year-old is going through after having a number of accidents himself.

“It was just amazing, it really perked me up that he managed to find time to send me a message – he really is a brilliant guy.”

John is now urging others to wear a helmet when cycling.

He said: “I just think anyone who doesn’t wear a helmet is taking an unnecessary risk, my accident happened at high speed in a race and luckily there was no traffic. You could fall off your bike at five miles per hour and bang your head on the curb.”

“It may not be cool wearing a cycling helmet, but you don’t look cool when you are dead.”

But he does not want his accident to stop others from taking up cycling or continuing with the sport as he is eager to get back on his bike and race once again.