Chris Froome stands to retrospectively become Britain’s first Grand Tour winner and add a seventh title to his collection, all from his hospital bed in France where he is recovering from a horror crash which has ruled him out of the Tour de France.
While the Team Ineos rider recovered from an operation lasting around six hours to repair multiple fractures, world governing body the UCI announced that 2011 Vuelta a Espana winner Juan Jose Cobo had been found guilty of a doping violation.
Cobo, riding for Geox-TMC, beat Froome by 13 seconds, with fellow Team Sky rider Sir Bradley Wiggins third, but is now expected to be stripped of the title.
The UCI said Cobo had been found “guilty of an anti-doping violation (use of a prohibited substance) based on abnormalities from 2009 and 2011 detected in his Biological Passport” and ruled ineligible for a period of three years.
The 38-year-old Spaniard has one month in which he can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport but, should the ruling stand, Froome is in line to be awarded the title, and will become Britain’s first Grand Tour winner, beating Wiggins’ 2012 Tour victory by ten months, and add the title to his Tour de France wins in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, his Vuelta win in 2017, and the 2018 Giro d’Italia title.
La Vuelta organisers are awaiting the full ruling from the UCI before making a statement.
However, Froome is in no position to celebrate the potential win after his horror crash during his reconnaissance ahead of stage four of the Criterium du Dauphine on Wednesday. The 34-year-old underwent lengthy surgery after suffering a broken femur and broken ribs in a high-speed crash on the time-trial course. He remains in a hospital in St Etienne, where he has been joined by his wife Michelle and Team Ineos doctor Richard Usher.
Ineos team principal Sir Dave Brailsford said yesterday: “He had surgery to repair his femur, his hip, his elbow. He’s got broken ribs, a little bit of internal damage as well, so he’s staying in intensive care for the next couple of days, then we’ll go from there.
“He’s being very well looked after. Our doctor is with him now and Michelle is with him. We’ll keep monitoring the situation as see how it develops.”
Brailsford said it is too soon to put any sort of timetable on his rehabilitation programme.
“First things first,” he said. “For now, let’s just concentrate on getting him through today, and then tomorrow et cetera and see how this situation develops from there.
“The first thing in all these situations is to get that first stabilisation, that first phase of medical surgery done, then go into the recovery process.”
According to a statement by Dr Usher issued later in the day, Froome’s mind has already turned to the work of rehabilitation to come.
“Chris woke up this morning and was reviewed by the intensive care consultants and the orthopaedic specialist who operated on him and they’re both very happy with his progress to date,” the statement said. “Chris will remain in hospital for the next few days for observation, but he is already actively engaging in discussing his rehabilitation options, which is very encouraging.”
Brailsford revealed that Froome’s data showed he went from 54 kilometres per hour to a dead stop as he struck a wall on a descent.
The accident happened when Froome wiped his nose and a gust of wind caught his front wheel.
“He came down a technical descent and on to a straighter piece of road with houses either side,” Brailsford told BBC Sport’s Bespoke podcast. “He signalled to (team-mate) Wout (Poels) that he was going to clear his nose, he took his hand off the bar to do that and a gust of wind took his front wheel, he lost control and went straight into the wall of a house. We have had a look at his data; he went from 54kmh to a dead stop.”
Defending champion Geraint Thomas will now be Ineos’ sole leader at the Tour, which begins in Brussels on 6 July.