Let’s face it: cycling is a weird sport. Beautiful but weird, like a deep sea creature that looks like a half slipper, half vanilla pudding. On Thursday, that weirdness was underscored when first the UCI reported that retired Spanish rider Juan José Cobo Acebo (JJ Cobo) was guilty of anti-doping rule violations from 2009-2011, before Spanish media RTVE reported that the Vuelta a España was scrubbing Cobo’s 2011 Vuelta win from the books, awarding the title to runner-up Chris Froome, who is recovering in a French hospital from an eight hour surgery after a terrifying crash while doing recon of the Critérium du Dauphiné’s fourth stage time trial.
Froome, who suffered a compound fracture of the right femur, a fractured elbow and fractured ribs after taking his hands off the handlebars to blow his nose at the moment a strong gust of wind kicked up, would thus own seven Grand Tour titles: four Tour de France wins, two Vueltas and a Giro.
Froome broke his leg and won a Grand Tour the next day. Legendary.
— Bill Schieken | CXHAIRS Media (@CXHairs) June 13, 2019
Think what you want of Froome, he’ll remain the first rider to win a Grand Tour while being treated in ICU pic.twitter.com/LwtOcbObfG
— Ufe (@oufeh) June 13, 2019
JJ Cobo’s win while racing for Geox-TMC, the final incarnation of Saunier Duval, was the great Grand Tour curiousity of this century. Before the 2011 Vuelta, he had finished only two Grand Tours out of the five he started, with 10th in the 2009 Vuelta his best result. After the 2011 Vuelta his best Grand Tour result was 30th. The only Tour de France he ever finished saw him come 116th in 2013.
Froome’s promotion means that teammate Bradley Wiggins moves up to second and Bauke Mollema finally earns a Grand Tour podium.
Froome’s recovery will be a long one, with a couple of days in intensive care at Saint-Etienne hospital to begin with, but Remi Philippot, chief surgeon for sports trauma at the facility says he should be back racing within six months.
There’s hope that news of what would be both his first and latest Grand Tour victory will buoy Froome’s spirits.