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, one minute and 39 seconds down, 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 against the ruling, but should it stand Froome is in line to become a two-time Vuelta winner.
If awarded the title, he will become Britain’s first Grand Tour winner, beating Wiggins’ 2012 Tour victory by 10 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.
A spokesperson for La Vuelta told Press Association Sport organisers were 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 overnight after suffering a broken femur, and broken ribs in a high-speed crash on the time trial course.
Team INEOS can confirm that Chris Froome will miss the Tour de France after sustaining multiple serious injuries during a recon of today's Criterium du Dauphine stage.— Team INEOS (@TeamINEOS) June 12, 2019
He remains in a hospital in St Etienne, where he has been joined by his wife Michelle and Team Ineos doctor Richard Usher.
Speaking to reporters ahead of Thursday’s stage five of the Dauphine, Ineos team principal Sir Dave Brailsford said: “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 and 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 Froome was being looked after in “exemplary fashion” but that 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 today and 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 really and then go into the recovery process.”
According to a full statement from 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.”
We’re pleased to report that @ChrisFroome’s surgery was a success following his crash on Wednesday afternoon.
⁰⁰Team Doctor Richard Usher has provided an update on his condition— Team INEOS (@TeamINEOS) June 13, 2019
Brailsford revealed on Wednesday night 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.
Chris is in surgery at the moment to repair the multiple fractures, please keep him in your thoughts. I hope to be able to share a message from him tomorrow morning - MF— Chris Froome (@chrisfroome) June 12, 2019
“We have had a look at his data, he went from 54kmh to a dead stop.”
Froome was riding the Dauphine during the final stages of his preparation for the Tour, where he was looking for a record-equalling fifth victory.
Defending champion Geraint Thomas will now be Ineos’ sole leader at the Tour, which begins in Brussels on July 6.
- Press Association