Chris Froome has shown off the 2011 Vuelta España champion's red jersey he was awarded after being retrospectively declared the winner of the Spanish Grand Tour. Juan José Cobo – crowned the winner of the race in September 2011 – chose not to appeal against the UCI ruling last month that he was "guilty of an anti-doping rule violation" related to Biological Passport data.
Cobo, riding then for Geox-TMC, beat Froome by just 13 seconds, with his Team Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins taking third place, 1:39 down on Cobo. In June, the UCI announced that Cobo was guilty of an anti-doping rule violation based on abnormalities from 2009 and 2011 detected in his Biological Passport. He was banned for three years and lost his Vuelta victory.
Froome is currently recovering from his serious Critérium du Dauphiné crash after spending a total of 22 days in hospital. He suffered a fractured hip, femur, elbow, and neck, as well as internal injuries but has set the 2020 Tour de France as an objective.
He talked about his recovery in a video message released by Team Ineos and, in another message, he held the 2011 Vuelta a España red jersey in his hands.
"This title, this red jersey, really does mean a lot to me," Froome said.
"That race, back in 2011 was incredibly special for me. The race was where I first started to believe in myself as a Grand Tour contender; it was the race where I had my first professional victory. I’ve got some really special memories from that race."
From a mountain domestique to Grand Tour contender
Froome transformed from a mountain domestique to Grand Tour contender during the 2011 Vuelta, perhaps missing out on initial overall victory after working for Wiggins. Froome later explained that his metamorphosis came after being diagnosed and treated for the African parasitic disease, bilharzia.
Team Ineos welcomed the decision by the UCI to award the 2011 Vuelta to Froome, suggesting it "underlines their commitment to clean cycling".
Froome revealed his frustration at being able to celebrate his victory back in 2011 but was happy to add a seventh Grand Tour victory on his palmarès.
"To be named the winner eight years on does feel strange on one hand but, at the same time, it's a really special one to add to my palmarès," he said.
"It would have been so different had I actually won it back then, being able to stand on podium in Madrid and really soak up feeling the winner of my first Grand Tour and being the first British rider to ever win a Grand Tour - that would have been an amazing feeling.
"It's still a special event to me. Even though it's been handed to me in hindsight, it really is still something I'll treasure for the rest of my life."