The African-born rider enjoyed his best years with the UK franchise, emerging as the most successful grand tour rider of the past decade while racing in Sky and then Ineos Grenadiers colors.
“It’s been an emotional day,” Froome told ITV at the line Sunday in Madrid. “The last day with the team, it’s been 11 years.”
Now 35, Froome was part of Sky’s original “class of 2010,” and after 11 seasons with the team, he is moving on to Israel Start-Up Nation in 2021 in a high-profile deal that marks a new chapter in his career. With the retirement last week of Ian Standard, only Geraint Thomas and Ben Swift remain from the original team that Sky fielded in 2010.
After racing two seasons with Barloworld, Froome was still largely unknown when he joined Sky in 2010. Few could have imagined he would emerge as a rider who would win seven grand titles over the next decade.
It was a full circle of sorts for Froome on Sunday. Before the start of the final stage, he received the winner’s trophy the 2011 Vuelta. Froome finished second to Juan José Cobo, who later saw his title stripped for violations of his biological passport during a two-year period that coincided with the 2011 Vuelta.
That edition saw Froome reveal his grand tour potential for the first time, and laid the runway for his emergence as Sky’s top GC rider and his first of four Tour de France victories in 2013. Froome finished ahead of the team’s designated GC captain Bradley Wiggins, and set the stage for their internal clash in the 2012 Tour.
“Obviously being here and being awarded that trophy this morning, that brought back a lot of memories from that period and I guess the progression I had to get to that point,” Froome said. “It puts everything in perspective.”
While Froome was on the upswing in 2011, his 2020 Vuelta saw Froome in a different place. Still recovering from his career-threatening crash at the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné, Froome struggled early in the explosive opening stages, and quickly faded out of GC contention in what was his first grand tour start since finishing third in the 2018 Tour.
Things were different in 2020, and Froome was far from his glory days as a potential winner of any grand tour he started. Froome was intent on completing this Vuelta and helped teammate Richard Carapaz as much as he could. Froome’s condition improved as the race unfolded, and he provided key help to Carapaz’s second-place arrival in Madrid.
Froome was congratulated throughout the final stage from teammates, staffers, former rivals, and others within the peloton. He even gave a signed race number to grand tour rookie Rui Oliveira (UAE-Emirates).
“It’s a massive farewell and thank you to everyone. Thank you to Sky, with all the support they’ve given us, and the new sponsors at Ineos Grenadiers as well,” Froome said. “And to everyone who’s been part of the team on the road, behind the scenes as well. It’s really been such a pleasure to be part of this group.”
Not content to be the elder statesmen in the group, Froome vows to return to the highest levels of the peloton. Whether he can do it or not remains to be seen.
“I will take a bit of break from the bike next couple of weeks, but I will be straight into the gym,” Froome said. “Hopefully I can start next season on par and ready to go again, and I can find my old legs again.”