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Sky and 21st Century Fox confirm sale agreed to petrochemicals giant; first race will be Tour de Yorkshire

Team Sky will become Team Ineos from 1 May this year after broadcaster Sky and sister company 21st Century Fox confirmed that they had agreed the sale of management company Tour Racing Limited to the petrochemical group, which is the UK’s largest private company.

Sky announced in December that it was withdrawing its sponsorship of the team from the end of this season, and today’s news, which had been widely anticipated in recent days, ensures the future of the UCI WorldTour outfit which has won six of the past seven editions of the Tour de France.

In a press release this afternoon, Sky said that Team Ineos will be formally launched at the Tour de Yorkshire, which starts on 2 May. The team’s first Grand Tour will be the Giro d’Italia – won last year by Chris Froome – which begins on 11 May.

Ineos was founded by Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the UK’s richest man, who is a billionaire Brexit backer and was recently reported to be moving for tax reasons to Monaco, where Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome are based.

He remains chairman and chief executive of Ineos, and is also the group’s controlling shareholder.

Today he said: “Cycling is a great endurance and tactical sport that is gaining ever more popularity around the world. Equally, cycling continues to mushroom for the general public as it is seen to be good for fitness and health, together with easing congestion and pollution in city environments.”

Earlier today, however, Friends of the Earth accused Ineos, a major producer of plastics, of “greenwashing” by backing the team, whose jerseys at last year’s Tour de France highlighted the Sky Ocen Rescue campaign to free the seas of plastic pollutants.

Tony Bosworth, fossil free campaigner at the environmental campaign group, said: “Taking over Team Sky is the latest blatant attempt at greenwashing by Ineos.

“It’s a harsh change of tone that may see Sky’s Ocean Rescue campaign to clear plastic pollution from our oceans ditched from the team jersey in favour of Ineos – one of the biggest plastic producers in Europe.

"This is also a company that wants to frack large swathes of northern England and the East Midlands. Ineos has also been lobbying hard for the government to relax safety rules so fracking companies can trigger larger earthquakes before having to down tools,” he added.

“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?”

Sir Dave Brailsford, team principal, said: “Today’s announcement is great news for the team, for cycling fans, and for the sport more widely.

“It ends the uncertainty around the team and the speed with which it has happened represents a huge vote of confidence in our future.

“In Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Ineos, I know that we have found the right partner whose vision, passion and pioneering spirit can lead us to even greater success on and off the bike.

It heralds the start of a hugely exciting new chapter for us all as Team Ineos.”

Sky added that “The practicalities of the transfer are subject to further discussion with the Union Cycliste Internationale.”

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.