Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome has pushed back on some of the scrutiny directed at Team Ineos, describing what he sees as 'double standards' because of the levels of criticism directed at the British team while other squads are given easier times. Froome was speaking at the unveiling of the Team Ineos kit in Yorkshire on Wednesday and on the eve of his first participation at the Tour de Yorkshire.
"Unless you're going to ask every anchorman on every news show about the people who pay for advertising on their shows, then I think there are double standards there," Froome told a small gathering of the press that included Cyclingnews.
Without mentioning teams by name, Froome hinted at petrochemical company Total, who recently took over the lead sponsorship of French team Direct Energie. The news of Ineos' arrival in the sport has also sparked a new wave of questions over the ownership of other teams with questionable ethical boundaries.
"If you're going to ask so much from certain sports people and not others, especially when there are other energy companies within the peloton and not a word was said to those riders, then I don't think it is fair," Froome pointed out.
Part of the tension directed towards Ineos and the management at Team Sky stems from the fact that in 2018 Team Sky came to the Tour de France with Ocean Rescue livery on the jerseys. They stated a wish to reduce their use of single plastics, but their new ties to Ineos - one of the three largest producers of plastics and a strong advocate for fracking - has drawn concerns from environmental groups. When one member of the press corps suggested that the intensity directed towards Team Ineos was because they are a British squad, Froome remained diplomatic.
"I understand that and as a company, they're doing a lot to tackle a lot of those environmental issues. I think Dave [Brailsford] explained it really well in that the team's not changing its philosophy. We're still working as a cycling team and working as hard as possible to reduce the amount of plastics that we use, especially single-use plastics. That campaign is only going to grow in the future."
Earlier, during a question and answers session that included Dave Brailsford and team owner Jim Ratcliffe, the four-time Tour de France winner was asked if he cared about the brand or jersey he was riding for. In front the press and with his boss to his left, and his boss's boss to his right, Froome walked a thin line and responded by saying, "of course it matters, within reason. It matters who the company is, sure."
Environmental groups have claimed that up to 15,000 masks with Ratcliffe's face and devil horns have been circulated before the Tour de Yorkshire in a bid to spread awareness over the fracking debate. Although any protests are expected to remain peaceful Froome stated that he would draw on the positives of racing a home race.
"I'll focus on the positivity and the crowds at Yorkshire. This is going to be my first time at the Tour of Yorkshire itself and if the scenes are anything like when the Tour de France came through Yorkshire then it's going to be an extremely enjoyable week and solid racing."