The takeover of the most dominant cycling team of the decade yesterday was greeted with relief from those within the sport, and condemnation from outside.
Team Sky will be known as Team INEOS from May 1 after securing the backing of Britain’s richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
They will make their debut at the Tour de Yorkshire on Thursday, May 2 – a real boon for that event – with four-time yellow-jersey winner Chris Froome set to lead the team over the four days.
Sky announced in December they would be ending a decade of sponsorship at the end of 2019, sparking a scramble to keep the most prominent team of the last 10 years alive.
Team principal Sir Dave Brailsford said: “Today’s announcement is great news for the team, for cycling fans, and for the sport more widely. The speed with which it has happened represents a huge vote of confidence in our future. In Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS I know that we have found the right partner whose vision, passion and pioneering spirit can lead us to even greater success on and off the bike.”
Froome tweeted: “So excited that we as riders and staff will be able to continue on together for 2020 and beyond. Looking forward to continued success as Team INEOS!
“Massive thanks to everyone involved in keeping this special group of people together.”
Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas tweeted: “Super happy that the team can continue and stay together!! Thank you to Sky, hello to INEOS.”
But the sentiments were not echoed from outside the team.
Sky’s massive budgets have helped them dominate cycling’s biggest races over recent years. Some of their rivals may have been hoping the media company’s withdrawal would lead to a levelling of the playing field, but the deep pockets of Ratcliffe – who made his fortune as head of petrochemicals giant INEOS – will ensure Brailsford can continue to spend at current levels.
And INEOS have come in for fierce criticism from environmental campaigners.
Tony Bosworth, of Friends of the Earth, said in a statement: “Taking over Team Sky is the latest blatant attempt at greenwashing by Ineos. It’s a harsh change of tone that may see Sky’s Ocean Rescue campaign to clear plastic pollution from our oceans ditched from the team jersey in favour of INEOS – one of the biggest plastic producers in Europe.”