While in demand for his comments about his rival and close friend Raymond Poulidor, who died on Wednesday morning following a long spell in hospital, five-time Tour de France champion Eddy Merckx has told the Belgian press that the bike crash he had in mid-October had been potentially more serious than had been reported.
Merckx crashed while riding with friends on October 13, and was rushed to hospital with what was described at the time as a "serious head injury".
"Things are going better now, but things still aren't quite as they should be," he told Sporza.be on Wednesday. "It's a bit too much to explain, but I have to have some further scans, and riding is absolutely forbidden.
"If you'd seen what I went through, then you'd know that I was very lucky," he continued. "If it wasn't for the coincidence that a nurse had been passing by, I think it might have been the end for me."
Merckx was released from hospital after five days, although the Belgian Sudpresse newspaper group reported at the time that Merckx had suffered a hemorrhage and had been kept in intensive care overnight.
"Fifty years after Blois, and now this," Merckx told Sporza.be, revealing further clues about the seriousness of the crash, and referring to the accident he was involved in at the cycling track at Blois, France, in 1969, when his Derny rider, Fernand Wambst, was killed, and Merckx was left bedridden for six weeks due to having injured both his hips and his head.
Merckx also admitted on Wednesday that Poulidor's death had hit him very hard.
"The cycling world has lost a monument, an icon," Merckx told Het Nieuwsblad. "You can't imagine how loved 'Poupou' was in France – every year I saw that at the Tour. France loved his charm.
"[He is] maybe the sportsman who was the most popular in France. A monument of a sportsman and a man is no longer with us. I've been hit very hard," he said.