A former rugby league star says he had a ‘lucky’ escape after shattering his shoulder in a horrifying collision with a tractor.

Keen cyclist William Blackburn was thrown from his bike following the incident with the tractor, which was overtaking him and then failed to stop.

Passing motorists came to the aid of the 47-year-old from Egremont, who was left to spend a week in Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary.

The father of five was thrown over the handlebars of his bike, landing heavily on his left shoulder, which shattered with the impact. He went under the knife to put six pins and a plate in place to reconstruct the shoulder.

Trying to stay positive, he said: “Although I’m in a bad way, it could have been a lot worse. I could have gone under the wheels of this tractor.

“When the adrenaline wore off I was in agony.”

The father-of-five said his recovery was challenging both mentally and physically with nobody allowed to visit the former Workington Town and Egremont Rangers player in hospital due to coronavirus restrictions.

“The hospital is bad enough as it is but it’s made even worse when you aren’t allowed visitors.

“The gyms have been shut and cycling is good for your mental health. It went from one end of the scale to the other. I was in a very low place in hospital.,” he admitted.

“The messages that came through to my phone were overwhelming.”

After coming home on Thursday he thanked everyone who had sent him good wishes, especially from Team XIII cycling club, of which he is a member.

He said the group, set up initially by ex-rugby league players who wanted to get fit, is now like a family with people from all walks of life.

“People I haven’t heard from in years, people from the club took the time to get in contact with me,” he said.

“It’s like a family club, it just goes to show they care about other team members.”

And he issued an appeal to cyclists and drivers to get cameras for safety.

“You can get a camera to fit on your helmet or your bike. It’s not just for your own safety, you could be in a group and someone else has it. Before long somebody’s going to get killed on these roads.”

Mr Blackburn’s teammate in Team XIII, Paul Morgan, added that the incident highlights a need for safe cycle routes.

The UK Government is set to launch an updated Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy in the Summer with over £1.1 million pledged to Cumbria.

Paul said: “The amount of people out riding since Covid-19 is growing and growing. I’m seeing a lot of people riding without a helmet.

“All our cyclists wear a helmet. I couldn’t count on two hands the amount of times they’ve been saved by wearing a helmet.”