Froome helps launch Team Ineos ahead of Tour de Yorkshire

Chris Froome (AP)
Chris Froome (AP)

London - Chris Froome helped officially launch Team Ineos on Wednesday ahead of the Tour de Yorkshire as the former Team Sky plots to build on a decade of success.

Chemicals giant Ineos, founded by Britain's richest man Jim Ratcliffe, confirmed its takeover of the British outfit in March after Sky announced it would end a 10-year commitment.

Deep-pocketed Team Sky won six Tour de France titles in seven years and racked up eight Grand Tour victories in total but were mired in controversy for using special exemptions to administer drugs that can enhance performance.

"This is a momentous day for the team, our fans and cycling in general," said team principal Dave Brailsford. "We are hugely excited about the future with Ineos at the helm."

Environmental protesters are expected to line the route of the four-day Tour de Yorkshire, beginning on Thursday, to voice their anger at Ineos's record on fracking and plastics.

Friends of the Earth issued an open letter to Brailsford, accusing Ineos of using sport to "greenwash" its name.

Wednesday's press conference was held far from the public gaze in a pub in North Yorkshire and Froome arrived by bike in his new red-and-black kit.

"Of course it matters, within reason," the four-time Tour de France winner said when asked about the name on his jersey. "It matters who the company is, sure."

Froome, 33, sat alongside Brailsford and Ratcliffe, his new paymaster, at the launch, and listened as the latter defended his company's record on environmental issues.

Ratcliffe dismissed many of the concerns around fracking, calling many protest groups "ignorant", criticising the government for listening to a "noisy minuscule minority", and insisting his company had made significant breakthroughs on expanding the recycling of plastic.

Froome said he believed Ineos were "genuinely doing something" to tackle environmental issues.

If the British cyclist had a complaint, it was that other teams, in cycling and beyond, do not face the same questions about their sponsorship.

"If you can ask so much of certain sportspeople and not others, especially when there are other energy companies in the peloton and not a word is said to those teams or riders, then I don't think this is fair," he said.

Ratcliffe has made it clear he has no plans to interfere in the running of the team, with Brailsford retaining control.

But he has the deep pockets required to ensure the team remains the best-funded in the sport.

Froome is targeting a fifth Tour de France crown, which would equal the record held by Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Jacques Anquetil, and Miguel Indurain.

"I'm working hard now to target that fifth Tour de France," said Froome. "If I can do that with Ineos it would be incredible."

Team Dimension Data rider Mark Cavendish will join Froome on the start line for the race in the north of England, hoping to battle the likes of Katusha-Alpecin's Marcel Kittel in the anticipated sprint finishes.

Defending Tour de Yorkshire champion Greg Van Avermaet and 2017 winner Serge Pauwels will also be taking part.

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