Environmental campaigners are set to hand out face masks of Jim Ratcliffe, the new owner of Team Sky, at the Tour de Yorkshire in protest at his petrochemical company Ineos taking over as the title sponsor of the British cycling team.
Team Sky are set to use the Tour de Yorkshire as the moment when they change into Team Ineos after the team sealed a new sponsorship deal worth £120 million over three years with Britain’s richest man.
The protest, led by the Frack Free United environmentalist group, centres around Ineos’ involvement with fracking in the UK, and accusations have been levelled at the petrochemical giant that their sponsorship of the team is an attempt at “greenwashing” their company.
The face masks will have Jim Ratcliffe’s face on the front, with details about INEOS and their involvement in gas and oil exploration and production on the back, according to Sportsmail.
Team Sky were wrapped up in controversy last year, with a 2018 parliamentary report finding the team “crossed an ethical line” with their use of the corticosteroid triamcinolone. The team denied any wrongdoing.
The team have also been accused of hypocrisy by environmentalists, as they have previously supported the Sky Ocean Rescue campaign before joining up with one of the world’s largest chemical producers.
Chris Froome is currently leading Team Sky in the Tour of the Alps, the final race before their name change.
Whilst the Tour de Yorkshire, which begins on May 2, is set to be Team Ineos’ official debut, their first race will actually be the Tour de Romandie, starting two days earlier on April 30.
The team will wear a temporary kit at the Tour de Romandie before the official gear is unveiled in Doncaster for stage one in Yorkshire.
Sky announced it would end its sponsorship of the team last December after 10 years in the sport.
Team boss Dave Brailsford was tasked with finding a new sponsor before the 2019 Tour de France in July, having talks with sponsors in Colombia before Ineos stepped in to save the team.