I'm not sure what I expected before the Team Ineos presentation, but everything that I was hearing and reading had some kind of negative connotation to it. Not quite fake news, but hardly good news, either.
Then there was the secrecy and lack of information surrounding the changeover from Team Sky to this new sponsor, and about where the venue was, that only selected journalists were invited, and that it couldn't be talked about before a certain time. The vibe wasn't quite 'if you want to be part of Fight Club then you can't talk about Fight Club', but the sentiment was there.
So, bused into a remote Yorkshire village on a luxury coach and crammed into a barely adequate room, it felt bizarre. Sure, it was all arranged beautifully, and everything was planned, with all eventualities considered. 'Controlled' would be the appropriate description. Now, I'd been to 16 team presentations as a rider, and none of them felt like this. But I was experiencing life on the other side of the media/team interface, so maybe this was normal. Naturally, I asked those accustomed to the typical media day affair, and they all were as dubious as I was.
Okey-dokey: let's try not to have any preconceptions. But still I was left asking myself whether there was a fear that some of the 15,000 face masks would turn up to ridicule Ineos CEO Jim Ratcliffe, or was it just a case of trying to keep some kind of lid on what was said before Dave Brailsford or anyone from the new team backer had given us the corporate position? Maybe it was none of those speculative excuses, and someone just fancied a trip to a country pub. We'll never know.
Video shown, brief speeches made by the two sirs – Jim and Dave – and then a break to allow the scripted arrival of four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome wearing the new kit. Then it was a Q&A session, in which, strangely, there was no mention of why burgundy was accompanying the traditional black, and nothing about marginal gains, either. Nope – there was none of that overtly performance-orientated spiel.
Instead, the first question was about plastic and pollution, and how it was a complete turnaround from where Sky was with their cleaner oceans campaign, and wasn't it all rather cynical? Then Chris Froome had a couple of questions before there was a return to more plastic, fracking and anything else totally unrelated to sport.
Now, I thought I'd been invited to a team presentation – not a moral and ethical grilling of someone who has just committed to backing Britain's best and most-successful cycling squad. I wasn't shocked by the constant doubts and disbelief of Ineos's motives, but having been on the receiving end of similar treatment when my old team Le Groupement folded, under pressure from the French media, I had hoped that lessons had been learned.
But apparently not. Being a British team backed by a major international company – although one that is seen as British – apparently justified the questions of why, where, when and how much it all cost. This wasn't only a little-sport-of-cycling story; the mainstream media was present, too, and as eager to hear the answers to the disappointing questions as all the other people.
Don't get me wrong: some of the questions ought to be asked – but in the right context and to the right people. If we aren't asking football or F1 about the morals or ethics of being funded by countries and backers with dubious human rights or environmental issues, then why is it suddenly so important to be asking Chris Froome if he's OK with being paid by the plastic producers when the year before he was a billboard for their removal from the oceans?
Instead of celebrating having found a company willing to support the sport to the same, if not higher, level that Sky did, I found myself a tad annoyed that the main focus was on something else. Not quite biting the hand that feeds you, but not far from it.
I know there'll be a comeback now that I've given my opinion. However, it's the period when normality returns to real life after the school holidays, so no more old Carry On films and no more re-runs of Dr No. And, let's face it, the people behind Sky didn't do that bad a job of being a bike team.
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