The large number of anti-fracking protestors expected to demonstrate against Team Ineos and their owner Jim Ratcliffe failed to appear on stage 1 of the Tour de Yorkshire, with team principal Dave Brailsford highlighting that there were more fans outside the team bus than those wearing Ratcliffe 'devil masks' or protesting against Ineos' involvement in cycling.
There were pockets of protestors both outside the Team Ineos bus and at the start line in Doncaster but at the finish in Selby a relaxed Brailsford appeared outside the Ineos bus to sign autographs and point out to the media that the passive and supportive crowds easily outnumbered the environmentalists who had turned up earlier in the day.
"I had to hunt them down first because I couldn't find them," Brailsford told Cyclingnews and a small group of journalists.
"There was hardly anybody there, let's be honest – let's be real for once. The 15,000-mob that was to attack me this morning didn't really materialise. That's the reality. There were people there with the right to an opinion and I respect that but they've got a right to their opinion and that's it."
In the buildup to the race, Team Ineos faced criticism from environmental and local groups over the petrochemical company's plastic and fracking businesses. On Wednesday the team bused the media to a secret location in the Yorkshire countryside in a bid to stop protestors appearing at the team launch.
When asked whether he and the team had any concerns over unveiling Ineos as the lead sponsor at the Tour de Yorkshire, Brailsford pushed back, despite Wednesday's level of secrecy.
"If we'd had any concerns about launching in Yorkshire we wouldn't have done it," he said.
"We were right not to have any concerns because there people are here and they're enjoying it. Let's report that," Brailsford said.
"You might have people with flags but what about these people here? Does their opinion matter any less? No it doesn't."
"If you have a balance I can see here now way more people than had flags. That's just true. That's facts and evidence. If you count the number of people here and the people with flags this morning… How many were there? Twenty? And how many here? There are more aren't there?"
The Team Ineos riders came through the stage without incident. Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome finished safely in the bunch while Dutchman Jesper Asselman collected the stage and the first leader's jersey of this year's race.
Froome stepped off the bus too, signing autographs and giving a quick quote to the press.
"The weather was a bit grim but the people were pretty friendly and it's good to be here. Good racing, solid racing, up and down all day."
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Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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