Chris Froome woke up in intensive care at St Etienne hospital on Thursday to discover that he may have won his seventh grand tour title.
A day after the horror crash at the Criterium du Dauphine which left the British rider with fractures to his femur, ribs and elbow, it emerged that Juan Jose Cobo, winner of the 2011 Vuelta a Espana, had been disqualified for doping.
Froome, who was second in that race, is likely to be awarded the title unless Cobo successfully appeals against “a three-year period of ineligibility” imposed on him by cycling’s world governing body.
The UCI released a statement saying that Cobo had been found guilty of an anti-doping rule violation “based on abnormalities from 2009 and 2011 detected in his biological passport”.
If he is awarded the 2011 Vuelta title, Froome would not only have won his seventh grand tour, he would replace Sir Bradley Wiggins as the first British man to win a grand tour, since his Vuelta victory would predate Wiggins’s 2012 Tour de France triumph.
Either way, the news was an extraordinary twist in what was a dramatic 24 hours.
Team Ineos did not reference the Cobo news in a brief statement published on Thursday night, sticking instead to a medical bulletin.
The statement confirmed that Froome would remain in intensive care “for the next few days” as he continued his recovery from the 40mph crash into a wall during a reconnaissanceride at the Dauphine on Wednesday.
Froome was left with a fractured right femur, a fractured elbow and fractured ribs, with his team principal Sir Dave Brailsford telling reporters on Thursday that his star rider had “a little bit of internal damage as well”.
Ineos team doctor Richard Usher said, however, that the recovery was well under way, with Froome – whose wife Michelle was with him in hospital – “already actively engaging in discussing his rehabilitation options”.
“First things first, the surgery was a success,” Usher said. “The operation, which lasted for six hours, went very well.
“Chris woke up this morning and was reviewed by the intensive care consultants and the orthopaedic specialist who operated on him and they are both very happy with his progress to date.
“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.”