The Ineos rider will leave for Israel Start-Up Nation next year after 11 years with the British outfit, formerly known as Team Sky.
“Obviously it’s been an emotional day, last day with the team, it’s been 11 years,” Froome said after the finish of stage 18. “I’m excited about what lies ahead but it’s also time for me to reflect on all the highs and lows over the last 11 years.”
Before the start, Froome was awarded a trophy for his retrospective 2011 Vuelta win after Juan José Cobo was stripped of the title for irregular blood values on his biological passport.
“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 continued. “It kind of puts everything in perspective.”
The 35-year-old says Ineos were happy with their performance at the Vuelta, Richard Carapaz riding to second overall behind Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), missing out on the red jersey by just 24 seconds.
“At the end of the day it was mano a mano,” Froome said of the GC battle. “Richard against the other GC guys, on stages like Angliru and yesterday, there are such small margins in it. Richard’s really happy, he feels like he gave everything and I think the team should be really chuffed with the result even though it wasn’t a victory.”
Froome finished the race in 98th place overall, three and a half hours down on Roglič, having often worked as a domestique for Carapaz. Before the stage he tweeted that completing his first Grand Tour since his crash at the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné is an important step on “my journey back to where I want to be”.
“Thank you to the Vuelta for giving me the opportunity to celebrate my 2011 win today. I first learned about it while in the ICU in June last year not knowing if I’d ever be able to compete again,” Froome said.
“Today I will complete my first Grand Tour since that crash and although it was not at the level I had hoped and worked for, I’m proud to have completed this step on my journey back to where I want to be.”
In another nice moment, Froome gave his frame number to Grand Tour debutant Ivo Oliveira, who rides for UAE Team Emirates.
We’ll next see Froome in the blue and white of Israel Start-Up Nation, riding alongside the likes of Dan Martin, who finished fourth overall at the Spanish Grand Tour.
Israel Start-Up Nation will bring in other reinforcements as well as Froome to bolster their squad in what will be their second season at WorldTour level, having signed Sep Vanmarcke, Michael Woods, Alessandro De Marchi and Daryl Impey.