Team Sky’s transition to Team Ineos begins at the Tour de Romandie on Tuesday, with the British WorldTour team confirming it will race under the Ineos banner in Switzerland, albeit in a one-off black and blue kit that resembles their existing Team Sky livery. 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas will lead the squad, with veteran Vasil Kiryienka back in action after his treatment for a cardiac anomaly.
UCI rules forbid a team from changing its name and kit midway through a race and Team Sky's official metamorphosis into Team Ineos is slated to take place on May 1.
The rebranding – including a new black and crimson kit – will be unveiled on Wednesday ahead of the 2019 Tour de Yorkshire at a special presentation. The sponsorship of Ineos has drawn criticism from environmental groups due to the petrochemical company’s involvement in fracking, with Steve Mason from Frack Free United, a network of groups that are opposed to fracking, telling Cyclingnews that 15,000 masks depicting the face of Ineos owner Jim Ratcliffe, complete with devil's horns, had been produced and that groups would attend both starts and finishes of the four-day race that kicks off in Doncaster next Thursday.
Ineos was announced as the new owner of the British WorldTour team in March, after Sky confirmed its own exit from the sport in December of last year. The team competed as Team Sky for the last time on Sunday at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Chris Froome will lead Team Sky at the Tour de Yorkshire and is expected to attend the Team Ineos presentation with team manager Dave Brailsford and Ratcliffe.
Thomas will be in action at the Tour de Romandie as he takes a different route to the 2019 Tour de France. The Welshman has yet to win a race this season, with his best result being a ninth place in the opening time trial at the Tour of the Basque Country. The Tour de Romandie is the Welshman’s penultimate stage race ahead of the Tour de France, he is also scheduled to compete at the Tour de Suisse in June.
Kiryienka has not raced since the World Championships in Innsbruck last season and Team Sky announced in March that he was receiving treatment for a heart condition.
“We're delighted that Vasil Kiryienka is ready to return to action. He has responded well to treatment for his cardiac anomaly and has been given the all clear to race,” read a post on the Team Sky Twitter account on Monday.
Kiryienka is in his seventh season at Team Sky, having joined the British outfit from Movistar in 2013. The 37-year-old will line up alongside Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas at the Tour de Romandie, which gets underway with a prologue time trial in Neuchâtel on Tuesday.
The Tour de Romandie will also see Ben Swift return to action for the first time since rupturing his spleen in a training crash in February. Thomas, Kiryienka and Swift will be joined in the line-up by Filippo Ganna, Kenny Elissonde, Dylan van Baarle and Diego Rosa.