Chris Froome's illustrious career at Ineos Grenadiers (Team Sky) is over.
The 35-year-old brought the curtain down on his 11-year stint with the team when he rode into Madrid in the final stage of the 2020 Vuelta a Espana.
Froome posted a heartfelt message to the team who he joined as a Grand Tour virgin and ended as a seven-time champion.
"Thank you to each and every one of the riders, staff and management, who have been a part of my journey," Froome wrote.
"It has been an incredibly special 11 years and I will always treasure the time we spent together. Much love & respect always."
Froome began his day by lifting the 2011 Vuelta trophy, a Grand Tour win he was retrospectively awarded last year.
And speaking after the stage the two-time Vuelta champion said that receiving the trophy added an extra layer of emotion to the day.
"It’s been an emotional day, the last day with the team, it’s been 11 years," Froome said.
"I’m excited about what lies ahead, but it’s also time for me to reflect on all the highs and lows really of the last 11 years.
"The 2011 Vuelta was where I won my first Grand Tour it turns out. Being awarded that trophy today brought back a lot of memories from that period and the progression that I had to get to that point. It sort of puts everything into perspective."
Froome in tears as Ineos career comes to an end - 'It's been 11 years, this is an emotional day'
Before the stage Froome told Eurosport’s Ashley House that it was an extremely special moment for him to receive the trophy, particularly given the manner in which he learned about the news in the aftermath of his horror crash at the Criterium Dauphine.
“It’s amazing to finally be given the trophy from the 2011 Vuelta, even more so because of the way I found out that I’d won the Vuelta,” Froome said.
I was lying in ICU, I’d just woken up and they said ‘congratulations you’ve won the 2011 Vuelta’. It was sort of a surreal moment where I almost thought I might be dreaming.
“It’s incredible to be given that trophy now and to be awarded that Vuelta.
“That race for me was a really significant turning point in my career. It was the first time I won a Grand Tour and it was the first time I really had that confidence to ride as a GC rider and then go on to target the Tour de France and more Grand Tours I guess from that win.
“Coming into that Vuelta I was given the job to try and stay with Bradley in the mountains, and I can remember doing that job and helping him in the mountains. I was pulling when I needed to pull, but I felt comfortable doing it.
“Those feelings gave me the confidence and made me start thinking, ‘hold on, you can do this as well’. That was the first time I really started believing in myself as a contender.”
Froome - 'The 2011 Vuelta was hugely significant for me, to be given the trophy now is incredible'
Froome will join Israel Start-Up Nation for next season, and his compatriot Alex Dowsett (whose spell with the Israeli side is scheduled to come to an end in the off-season) says that the switch should excite Froome, even if it will come as a shock to his system.
"I think it will be a shock for Froome because he’s been part of Ineos for a decade, and going anywhere else when you’ve been part of the same team for ten years is going to be a shock," Dowsett told Eurosport.
"I’ve ridden for four different World Tour teams now (Katusha, Movistar, Sky and Israel) and they’re all different. That’s not to say that any are different or worse than each other, it’s just that there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
It will be a shock for him. Israel want to do well. There are teams that I’ve ridden for before that are quite stuck in their ways, Israel are very progressive and forward thinking. So it could be a new challenge for him and a big old lease of life.
"He looks like he’s enjoyed things at La Vuelta. I can’t imagine what the last Grand Tour he went to when he had no pressure on his back at all. I think he’ll have fun."