Chris Froome defends Ineos sponsorship amid criticism

Environmental campaigners have raised concerns about the chemical company

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Chris Froome has defended new team owner and sponsor Ineos amid criticism of the firm's plastic production and links to fracking

The four-time Tour de France winner Froome presented the new burgundy coloured jersey emblazoned with the Ineos name on Wednesday (May 1) in the small Yorkshire village of Linton.

Froome, team boss Sir Dave Brailsford and new backer Sir Jim Ratcliffe officially launched Team Ineos as the chemical company takes over from former sponsor Sky.

"Of course it matters within reason. It matters who the person is, who the company is, sure," Froome said when asked about team sponsorship.

"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. 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."

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Broadcaster Sky funded and owned the team for the last 10 years, but has now ended its professional cycling sponsorship.

With Ineos, cycling now has another backer involved in gas or plastics alongside others like Soudal, Total and Gazprom.

In recent years, Team Sky had led campaigns to reduce plastic use and to save the rainforests. In the 2019 Tour de France, the squad rode with special edition jerseys encouraging people to 'pass on plastic.'

"The team is not changing its philosophy on 'Pass on Plastic', we are working as hard as possible as a cycling team to reduce the amount of plastic we use, especially single-use plastic that can't be used again. That campaign will only grow in the future with us," Froome added.

"I'm happy to be here today to hear what Jim [Ratcliffe] had to say about all those issues and as a company they are genuinely doing a lot to try to tackle a lot of those environmental issues."

Ratcliffe met with Brailsford early this year after Sky announced 2019 would be its last as a cycling sponsor. Ratcliffe, who is Britain's richest person, agreed to take over the team to see it continue with his Ineos chemical company's name.

"We are going to improve technologies and recycling, a lot of science going to help solve that problem," Ratcliffe said. "But you look at cycling, [bikes] are essential for modern life. You go to a hospital, it's all plastic, your car is half plastic, your food is wrapped in plastic. Plastic does have value in our modern life whether you like it or not, and we don't chuck it in the sea. We do what we can to help, but we can't solve the whole problem."

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Anti-fracking protestors are due to attend the Tour de Yorkshire, where the team will make its official debut on Thursday (May 2). They are taking aim at the team and Ineos, which has been granted permission to explore fracking sites in parts of the north of England and the East Midlands

Fracking is the controversial process of drilling into the earth and blasting liquid at rock to release natural gas inside.

Critics are opposed to the practice because of the environmental impacts of transferring the huge amounts of water needed and the risk of earth tremors.

"Team Ineos is a completely different thing to the fracking issue," added Ratcliffe.

"If I look at the UK, we are sat on some potentially extraordinary reserves. Gasses are great fuel, it's a clean fuel compared to coal or importing gas. It creates jobs and investments. Why wouldn't you look at exploring that in the UK? I think it's outrageous that the government listens to a noisy minuscule minority instead of looking at the science, which is what they should do."

Any controversy appears to be background noise for Froome, who will line up for the Tour de Yorkshire as he builds for the Tour de France. He put "faith" in team principal Brailsford this spring to find a new sponsor and said he never thought about having to ride for another team.

"No. Quite frankly, I didn't even enter into negotiations with any other teams or even explore the opportunities of going elsewhere," Froome explained.

"I always had faith that Dave would find a replacement and we'd manage to keep the group together."

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