Chris Froome (Ineos Grenadiers) was awarded a trophy to recognize his victory in the 2011 Vuelta a España nine years after the race took place. Froome finished second behind Juan José Cobo in 2011 after riding in support of Bradley Wiggins for much of the race. However, in June of 2019 the UCI declared that its Anti-Doping Tribunal found Cobo "guilty of an anti-doping rule violation (Use of a prohibited substance) based on abnormalities from 2009 and 2011 detected in his Biological Passport and imposed a three-year period of ineligibility on the rider."
Cobo did not contest the decision and last Autumn Froome was crowned the official winner of the race with Wiggins moving up to second as a result.
At the start of the final stage if this year’s Vuelta a España, the race organisers recognized Froome’s win with a special trophy that was awarded at the start of the stage. When handed the award, Froome talked about the fact that he learned of his win just after his career-threatening crash at the Critérium du Dauphiné last June, with the news broken to him the day after he had major surgery.
“It’s a really special victory. I have really special memories obviously looking back to this period, but also the way I was told about this victory, when I woke up the day after my big accident last year,” Froome told reporters at the Vuelta.
“I was in ICU still when I was told: ‘Congratulations, you’ve won La Vuelta.’ That was a really strange feeling. It was such a special race to me. It’s where I first discovered myself as a Grand Tour rider and a GC contender. It gave me confidence to then go on to the Tour de France, to keep targeting Grand Tours. I certainly hope next season I’ll be here in a different capacity.”
In a subsequent message on Twitter, the four-time Tour de France winner, who had never competed for a Grand Tour until the 2011 Vuelta, admitted that he wasn’t quite at the level he wanted to be at as he prepares for life after Ineos Grenadiers in 2021.
“Today I will complete my first Grand Tour since that crash and although it was not at the level I had hoped & worked for, I’m proud to have completed this step on my journey back to where I want to be. Muchas Gracias
“Thank you to @lavuelta for giving me the opportunity to celebrate my 2011 win today. I first learnt about it while in ICU in June last year not knowing if I’d ever be able to compete again.”
At the finish in Madrid, Froome was able to look back at his first Grand Tour in over two years with mixed emotions. He ends the race over three hours down on Roglic and in 98th place, but the British rider was adamant from the start of this year’s Vuelta that he was using this as part of his preparation for the 2021 season, when he will target the Tour de France as part of a new-look Israel Start-Up Nation team.
“It’s been an emotional day, last race with the team, it’s been 11 years. I’m excited about what lies ahead but it’s also time to reflect on all the highs and lows of the last 11 years. Today, especially, I thought about the 2011 Vuelta, where I won my first Grand Tour as it turns out. Being here at the Vuelta and being awarded that trophy this morning brought back a lot of memories from that period and the progression that I had to get to that point. It put everything into perspective.”
Froome was able to assist teammate and eventual runner-up Richard Carapaz at various points in the three-week race and he was asked whether there was any sense of regret within the Ineos camp as to whether they could have made up the deciding 24 seconds at any point over Roglic.
“At the end of the day it was mano-a-mano against the GC guys, like Roglic,” Froome said.
“On stages like Angliru and stages like yesterday, the margins are so small. Richard is happy and he gave everything and he and the team should be really chuffed with that result, even though it wasn’t a victory.”
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