A CYCLIST said it was only his vast experience that saved him from death when a huge pothole tripped up his bike, leaving him bloodied and bruised.

Ray McGloin, of Welbeck Road, Heaton, was in a group of four riders when his front wheel jammed in a six inch deep crevice next to a storm drain grate as cars sped by.

The 58-year-old — a triathlon coach who set up Tri-Rivington UK triathlon group in September — was thrown off his top-of-the-range blue Giant Defy winter road bike.

Mr McGloin said: "We had hit 19 or 20mph. We were strung out and were in a small group of four.

"I was at the back as usual to protect the others from cars.

"The front cyclists were able to swerve around the pothole but they saw it rather late and were unable to give me a signal to warn me.

"My front wheel went straight into the hole and locked.

"I went flying over the handlebars and landed on my face and shoulders.

"I didn't move for about five or 10 minutes and I felt I was going to lose consciousness. I was shaken up."

The crash happened during Sunday's weekly informal ride enjoyed by the semi-retired schoolteacher and other Tri-Rivington UK members.

They were making their way back to Bolton from Southport when he crashed at 1pm on the eastbound A565 Southport New Road in Banks, near Southport.

Mr McGloin, who was treated at Southport and Formby District General Hospital, suffered a swollen left cheekbone, several facial bruising, grazes to his knees and elbows and bruised - possibly cracked - ribs.

The former Ironman and triathlon competitor said: "I am a very experienced cyclist and I was able to fall to the left.

"Had I gone out into road, I could have been killed.

"The cars on that stretch are going about 70mph and it's very busy."

The pothole had already been identified by Lancashire County Council as in need of repair because it was marked with a yellow sprayed circle.

But Mr McGloin contacted the authority to call for the deep crack to be immediately tarmacked over.

Mr McGloin said: "It was nobody's fault - the issue was the road.

"It's just one of those accidents but if the pothole had been filled in, I would have been OK.

"I couldn't live with myself if somebody was killed. It's only a matter of time.

"It's generally a good road and that's why it's dangerous — you're not looking for potholes all the time — and it's a nice flat road so lots of Bolton cyclists use it to help improve their speeds up to 21 or even 23mph."

He added: "We do have cycle lanes there but we don't use them because a lot of pedestrians use them to walk their dogs and there are overhanging branches and lots of rocks and stones in the pathway.

"The road is actually a safe option."

Mr McGloin's helmet and sunglasses were smashed in the crash but his bike should be repairable in time for him to compete at the UK Fire Fighters 2UP Duathlon at Rivington and Blackrod High School in Rivington on March 20.

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: "We do all we reasonably can to ensure our roads are safe, and have a process in place which aims to ensure that any damage which is reported by the public is inspected, and if necessary repaired, within 20 working days.

"This area of damage was inspected on Tuesday March 1 after being reported the previous day.

"We're due to carry out a repair later this week."