The marshal who narrowly escaped a mid-race crash with an oncoming car during the Tour de Yorkshire in Leeds said it was “sheer instinct” that saved him.
Dramatic footage emerged yesterday of Phillip Sullivan, aged 35, from Pudsey, leaping clear of a caravan car which was accompanying the race as it slammed through a central reservation and the spot he had been standing mere seconds before.
The footage shown here, shot at the top of Canal Road coming just off Stanningley Road by Nathan Currie and his uncle, captured the moment Mr Sullivan jumped to safety with moments to spare.
Mr Sullivan’s mother was watching on from a little further along the road and feared the worst for her son but the volunteer marshal somehow emerged unscathed and today the father-of-two told of how fortunate he had been to avoid serious injury as he vowed that the incident would not deter him from applying for the same role next year.
Talking through his experience, bank worker Mr Sullivan said: “I went down to the position I’d been given as I was aware that the cyclists were on their way. I had a high-vis vest on, my flag and a whistle. I got into position on the street, behind the bollard as advised in the training videos.
“I started whistling as the first car came round, the peloton came through and then about a quarter of the way into the race time literally froze and slowed down to milliseconds.
“I saw the car coming at considerable speed and just thought, ‘it’s going to move, it’s going to move... it’s not going to move’. Instinct told me to jump. So I jumped to my right. I don’t know (how I did it), sheer instinct.
“It was that close I could feel the air of the wheels pass my feet.”
Mr Sullivan, who is married to wife Catherine and has two children, Lucas aged nine and Eden aged three, said he had rewatched a slow motion video of the near-miss this morning and that it was only then when he truly appreciated how close he had come to being struck by the moving car.
“I genuinely didn’t realise how close it was. My feet were inches away from the car.
“What I didn’t realise at the time was that there was another car coming down the right hand side. If it was any earlier... I’m lucky the car was a few more seconds away.”
Having jumped clear of the traffic, spectators lining the roadside were quick to check that he was okay, but he resumed his marshalling duties moments later.
“There were fantastic people around me asking me if I was okay. I dusted myself down and went back to my position.”
Mr Sullivan, who is originally from Cornwall and moved to Leeds 17 years ago, said: “I love Leeds, I love Yorkshire. I thought the race was a fantastic thing for Yorkshire - it’s great for the region, great for the economy - and I wanted to make sure nothing happened to the riders, so I just carried on.
“Inside I was absolutely terrified. I was shaking, I was horrified by what had just happened but I volunteered because I wanted to do the role and I thought I had to go out and finish what I started.
“At the end, when I finished I went to the side of the road and again people came up to me asking if I was okay.
“The worst thing was, my mum was at a bus stop further along. She was looking and saw the car go over the bollard and she didn’t see me. She thought I’d been killed.”
He said he was still coming to terms with what had happened.
“I’m still in shock. I’m still quite upset about it. I have two young children and I realise now how close it was. If there was an impact, it wouldn’t have been good. But I want to be positive about this. I’m here, I have a second chance and hopefully I can be part of it again next year.
“All I want is for it to be investigated, that there are lessons to be learned and I hope it doesn’t happen again. I want to be an inspiration to people, to more volunteers. It’s better to talk about it.”
Mr Sullivan was fulfilling volunteer duties that he had sought since having first acted as a race marshal when the Grand Départ of the Tour de France came to Yorkshire in 2014.
He added that he was trying to get in touch with the driver of the car to check that they were okay too and that he had been in contact with race hosts Welcome to Yorkshire following the incident which happened on the final stage of the Tour de Yorkshire weekend, on the route between Halifax and Leeds.
The pro-cycling team, Astana, whose car was involved in the incident has issued an apology.
Astana’s sport director, Lars Michaelsen, said: “First of all I want to apologise for the collision I had with the street furniture, riding in the first team car. We also apologised to race organiser ASO and the involved marshal.”