For the first time in recent memory, it won’t be Team Sky setting a brutal pace at the head of the Tour de France in 2019. Multi-billion dollar chemicals and oil products company Ineos will replace Sky as the team’s title sponsor as of May 1. It will be the team’s first title sponsor change in its 10-year history.
The deal was announced on Tuesday with Sky and 21st Century Fox agreeing to sell the Tour Racing Limited, the team’s holding company, to Ineos. The sale comes into effect ahead of the start of the Tour de Yorkshire which begins on May 2.
Britain’s richest person Jim Ratcliffe who was an outspoken supporter of Brexit but recently moved to Monaco to save on taxes is an avid triathlete. Team Sky also have a training base in Monaco.
“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,” Ratcliffe said. “Ineos is delighted to take on the responsibility of running such a professional team.”
In December, Sky announced it would be withdrawing its sponsorship of Dave Brailsford’s program at the end of 2019. The team had recently announced contract extensions of Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas and budding superstar Egan Bernal leaving a great deal of uncertainty heading into 2019.
The acquisition of a multi-billion dollar UK corporate sponsor maintains the team’s British heritage while ensuring the team’s stability for the coming seasons.
“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,” said Brailsford.
“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.”
Ineos will take over naming rights in 2019 but in the announcement the team said that it will fund the current team in full, honouring all existing commitments to riders, staff and partners. There is even speculation that the programs already massive budget could be increased under the new sponsor.
The team is set to start the 2019 Tour de France with both four-time champion Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas vying to defend his 2018 title.