Grand Tour winners on the pitch as Ineos Grenadiers launch in Nice (+ video)
Grand Tour winners on the pitch as Ineos Grenadiers launch
Ineos rolls out its stars from other sports as team’s new kit and bike officially unveiled
As shows of strength of corporate support for sport go, this evening’s official launch of the Ineos Grenadiers will take some beating – with Olympic yachtsman Sir Ben Ainslie, marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge, F1 star Valtteri Bottas and World Cup winner and Arsenal Invincible Patrick Vieira introducing the UCI WorldTour’s four Grand Tour winners in Nice this evening.
Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas may have missed out on selection for the Tour de France, which starts in the Cote d’Azur city on Saturday, but together with Giro d’Italia champion Richard Carapaz and Egan Bernal, set to start his defence of the yellow jersey, they appeared at the Ligue 1 club OGC Nice’s Allianz Riviera stadium this evening.
The common thread between those various sporting stars and the Ineos Grenadiers is, of course, their mutual sponsorship through Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s petrochemical firm, the UK’s largest private company.
Four-time Olympic champion Ainslie is spearheading the Ineos Team America’s Cup challenge, Kipchoge was backed by the company when he ran the first-ever sub-2 hour marathon last year, the company is a backer of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team that Bottas drives for, and Vieira is head coach at OGC Nice.
Hosted via videolink by Gabby Logan, the half-hour presentation which was shown live on YouTube and Facebook, certainly reflected the changed world in which we now live.
The riders – first Thomas and Froome, then Carapaz and Bernal – riding onto the stage on their new Pinarello Dogma F12 bikes before using hand sanitiser and taking to socially distanced stools, all of them wearing Ineos Grenadier-branded masks throughout. Team principal Sir Dave Brailsford also appeared, together with head coach Tim Kerrison.
There were two prototypes of the 4x4 vehicle that is the reason for the rebranding on show on the pitch, too – another sign of how the once publicity-shy Ratcliffe is using his, and his company’s billions to diversify beyond its core business, something that has led to accusations of ‘greenwashing’ and protests against the team at races including last year’s Tour de Yorkshire and Tour de France.
The focus of course over the next three and a half weeks – or, for however long the Tour de France lasts before the plug is pulled on the race due to concerns over COVID-19 – will be on the cycling.
In a press release issued this afternoon as the event in Nice got under way, Brailsford said: “The Ineos Grenadiers is a new name but one that sums up who we have always been. It is a new partnership but one that epitomises our existing team values – ambition, grit, determination, resourcefulness, tenacity and passion.
“This is a deepening of our relationship with Ineos and a brilliant example of how being a part of the Ineos group presents so many opportunities for us to be greater together.
“Just like the Grenadier, we are a team built on purpose. We know what we need to do and have the right team to get the job done. We are here with a clear ambition and are going all in to make it happen.”
Four-time Tour de France winner Froome, who will be seeking his third Vuelta title this year ahead of his departure to Israel Start-Up Nation for next season, said: “It is fantastic to see a partnership which feels such a natural fit with a shared vision and outlook. Cycling is all about grit and resilience and I’ve learnt that more than ever over the last year. I can’t wait to lead the Ineos Grenadiers in Spain later this year.”
Froome and 2018 Tour de France champion Thomas were founder members of the UCI WorldTour outfit’s predecessor, Team Sky, when it began in 2010, both joining from Barloworld.
Thomas, whose target this year is now the Giro d’Italia, said: “I still remember being at the original team launch in London in 2010, so to be here a decade later, at the start of a new era for the team, is really special.
“I am looking forward to racing in the new Ineos Grenadiers colours at the Giro d’Italia and trying to secure another Grand Tour title for the team.”
We’ll leave the last word to the man who will take to the start line on Nice’s Place Massena on Saturday with the number 1 on his back, last year’s Tour de France winner, Egan Bernal.
“It is special to be riding the Tour de France as the Ineos Grenadiers for the first time,” the Colombian said.
“As the reigning champion, it will be different for me this year but I am really excited to be putting the number one on my jersey.
“We have a really strong team with a good combination of young riders and riders who have a lot of experience, and that is a really important thing for the Tour de France. We all have the same motivation and are ready to give it our all and go full gas.”
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