Six years on, Juan José Cobo’s overall victory at the 2011 Vuelta a España is now viewed as something of an aberration – the ‘Bison’ was last seen in the colours of Turkish Continental outfit Torku Sekerspor in 2014 – but he had a considerably finer pedigree than the man who reached Madrid in second place overall.
His team leader Bradley Wiggins had been expected to move into the red jersey that afternoon, but instead it was a faintly confused Froome who clambered onto the podium after being the only rider to finish within a minute of Tony Martin.
In later years, Sky manager Dave Brailsford would describe Froome as a “diamond in the rough”, but he scarcely seemed a precious commodity when he was delegated to ride for Wiggins on the next stage to Alto de la Manzaneda, where he surrendered the lead to his captain.
Twelve months after inching towards the exit at Sky, Froome returned to the Vuelta as team leader at the end of a season that had yielded second place at the Tour de France and a bronze medal in the Olympic Games time trial.
On that afternoon in the Pyrenees, Froome pedalled with the same kind of facility he had shown at Mont Ventoux in 2013, but he was rather heavier-legged in the opening climbs at the Vuelta, conceding ground to Esteban Chaves, Dan Martin and even his Sky teammate Nicolas Roche.
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