• (L-R) Jim Ratcliffe, Chris Froome and David Brailsford. (Getty)Source: Getty
Four-times Tour de France winner Chris Froome rode his bike into a picturesque Yorkshire village on Wednesday saying it felt like a “new beginning” as Team Sky officially became Team INEOS.
Cycling Central

2 May 2019 - 9:23 AM  UPDATED 2 May 2019 - 9:45 AM

The 33-year-old Briton admits there were concerns rather than panic when broadcaster Sky announced last year it was ending its 10-year financing of a team set up by Dave Brailsford and which helped him become one of the greatest riders in cycling history.

Yet Britain’s richest man Jim Ratcliffe rode to the rescue with INEOS, the company he founded and has turned into one of the world’s largest chemical producers, taking control with a funding package worth $223 million AUD over three years.

Froome said with INEOS’s investment he would be pushing harder for cycling’s biggest prizes, starting with a record-equaling fifth Tour de France later this year.

“We will be pushing harder and trying to stay at the top,” Froome, donning the team’s new dark red and black kit, told reporters outside the village pub in Linton that doubled as a venue for the official launch of Team INEOS on Wednesday.

“It’s a new beginning and feels strange after 10 years saying Team Sky. It feels new and exciting. I’m working hard to win a fifth Tour de France and if I can do that with INEOS that would be incredible. That’s not been done for two decades.”

This year’s Tour will see both Froome and reigning champion Geraint Thomas vying for the yellow jersey as team-mates, but Froome says that will only be a problem for their rivals.

“It’s more of a concern for them," he said. “We have always gone to Grand Tours with options to play and last year I was extremely grateful we had Geraint to step up.

“I come off winning the Giro and I wasn’t at my best for the Tour. I was running on fumes. Luckily Geraint was there to step up otherwise it wouldn’t have been a Team Sky victory it would have gone to Tom Dumoulin.

“The dynamic between Geraint and myself is good. Hopefully one of us will be standing on the top step in Paris.”

Froome and his team-mates will get a raucous welcome around the four hilly stages of the Tour of Yorkshire, which starts on Thursday and will be Team INEOS’s first race.

However, protests are expected over INEOS’s links to fracking operations and its plastics businesses.

The Kenyan-born rider said those criticizing the energy giant's move into cycling were guilty of double standards.

“Unless you are going to ask every anchorman on every news channel about the people who pay for advertising on their shows, then there is definitely a double standard there,” he said.

“If you are going to ask so much of certain sportspeople and not others, especially when there are already energy companies within the peloton and not a word was said to those teams or those riders then I don’t think it is fair.”

Team Sky were high-profile backers of the Sky Ocean Rescue campaign aimed at reducing single-use plastic, something Froome said would continue.

“We are working as hard as possible as a cycling team to reduce the amount of plastic we use,” he said. “That campaign will only grow in the future with us.”

Brailsford also responded to environmental critics like Friends of the Earth who have written to him expressing their “deep concerns” over the INEOS deal, saying he is facilitating “greenwashing”.

Asked if the deal ran contrary to the team’s stance against single-use plastic, Brailsford leapt to the defence of his benefactor Ratcliffe.

“I think it’s the opposite, if anyone can do anything about it, it’s these guys," he said of INEOS. “If anything it’s a step in the right direction. I’m not an expert in chemicals, I’m an expert in trying to make Chris ride his bike faster.

"When I educated myself about this whole area I quickly came to realize that there’s a very simplistic view, but when you dive down you find out there’s a very different view. I’m very comfortable with the situation.”

Ratcliffe, a keen cyclist himself, who spoke of his excitement at acquiring the ‘world’s finest cycling team run by the world’s most successful coach’ also found himself defending his companies environmental credentials.

“If I look at fracking groups, the majority of the ones I have met and heard about are ignorant about fracking,” he said. “It’s outrageous that the government listen to a noisy, minuscule minority instead of looking at science.”

When talk turned to cycling and what the future might hold for Team INEOS, Brailsford said it was a “great opportunity” to stay ahead of the curve.

“This is not about rolling forward with the same. This is something new, making things bigger and better,” he said.

“The feeling I have is a big sense of pride, seeing the bus with INEOS on it and seeing Chris in the new kit. It’s a British success story that we want to continue.”

Anti-fracking protestors to target Team Ineos at Tour of Yorkshire
Expect to see anti-fracking protestors among the fans at next week's Tour of Yorkshire when Team Sky transmutes into Team Ineos. Watch the race LIVE 2-5 May streaming on our site or via SBS On Demand.