‘Team Ineos’ is a go as fracking firm buy racing team

Britain's Geraint Thomas, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, and Britain's Chris Froome, ride during the fourteenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 188 kilometers (116.8 miles) with start in Saint-Paul Trois-Chateaux and Mende, France, Saturday, July 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Britain's Geraint Thomas, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, and Britain's Chris Froome, ride during the fourteenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 188 kilometers (116.8 miles) with start in Saint-Paul Trois-Chateaux and Mende, France, Saturday, July 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas can take aim at the Tour de France certain of their futures after Team Sky announced they will continue racing under a new guise from May.

Team principal Sir Dave Brailsford has spent the past four months seeking new financial backing after Sky announced it would end its interest in the sport at the end of the year, but has struck gold with the team being sold to Britain’s richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe.

The deal means the British-registered squad will be known as Team Ineos, starting with the Tour de Yorkshire in May, while staff and riders no longer need to wonder if they have a home for next season and beyond.

“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!” four-time Tour winner Froome wrote on Twitter.

“Massive thanks to everyone involved in keeping this special group of people together.”

Thomas, who beat Froome to Tour glory last July, added: “Super happy that the team can continue and stay together!! Thank you to Sky, hello to Ineos.”

It is perhaps little wonder that Thomas is “super happy” given he signed a three-year deal worth a reported £3.5million per season in September, only for Sky’s announcement to leave it in doubt.

The Ineos deal is a major victory for Brailsford, who faced the daunting task of finding a new sponsor for a team that had the deepest pockets in the sport.

“Today’s announcement is great news for the team, for cycling fans, and for the sport more widely,” Brailsford said. “It ends the uncertainty around the team and the speed with which it has happened represents a huge vote of confidence in our future.”

With an annual budget estimated at £35million, Team Sky have been able to dominate the sport, winning six of the past seven editions of the Tour de France with three different riders.

Plenty of their rivals could have been forgiven for hoping there would be no saviour for a team whose dominance has almost suffocated the Grand Tours at times, but at least publicly there was an upbeat mood after the news.

Reacting to the Ineos announcement and reports suggesting French oil company Total could back the Direct Energie squad, Deceuninck-QuickStep boss Patrick Lefevre wrote on Twitter: “If it’s true that #Ineos and #total are making their entree in cycling then is this fantastic news for cycling. Hoping that others will follow.”

However, the arrival of Ratcliffe was not universally welcomed, with environmental groups pointing to the fact Team Sky will go from promoting an ocean rescue and #passonplastic campaign to being sponsored by a major producer of plastic.

“Cycling is one the UK’s most successful and popular sports, but do the likes of Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome really want to be associated with a planet-wrecking company like Ineos?”

Friends of the Earth campaigner Tony Bosworth said.

Ineos did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the issue.

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