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Team Sky to become Team Ineos after winning backing of Sir Jim Ratcliffe

Team Sky will stay on the road under a new guise after securing the backing of Britain's richest man Sir Jim Ratcliff Credit: PA

Team Sky will stay on the road under a new guise after securing the backing of Britain's richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe.

The team will change their name to become known as Team INEOS mid-season, racing under the new branding for the first time at the Tour de Yorkshire in May.

The British-registered team had been seeking new funding after Sky announced in December it would end its ownership and sponsorship at the end of 2019.

Sky and 21st Century Fox will now end their involvement on May 1 with INEOS becoming the sole owners of the team's holding company Tour Racing Limited.

The Tour de Yorkshire begins in Doncaster the following day.

Team principal Sir Dave Brailsford said: "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.

"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. It heralds the start of a hugely exciting new chapter for us all as Team INEOS."

News of the deal ensures Brailsford can keep together a team that has won six of the past seven editions of the Tour de France, and established itself as one of the most successful teams in the sport since forming in 2010.

The British-registered team had been seeking new funding after Sky announced in December it would end its ownership and sponsorship at the end of 2019. Credit: PA

Sky's withdrawal had come as a shock to Brailsford when it was announced last year, with the team having just handed lengthy contract extensions to Tour winner Geraint Thomas and rising prospect Egan Bernal.

Ratcliffe has previously invested significant sums in sailing, partnering with Ben Ainslie to form Ineos Team UK, but is also known as a keen amateur cyclist who can now take his interest in the sport to a different level.

"Cycling is a great endurance and tactical sport that is gaining ever more popularity around the world," Ratcliffe said in a statement.

"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.

"INEOS is delighted to take on the responsibility of running such a professional team."

Team Sky's massive budgets have helped them dominate cycling's biggest races over recent years.

Some of their rivals may have been hoping the media company's withdrawal would lead to a levelling of the playing field, but Ratcliffe's deep pockets will ensure Brailsford can continue to spend at current levels.

The team will change their name to become known as Team INEOS mid-season, racing under the new branding for the first time at the Tour de Yorkshire in May. Credit: PA

A team statement said INEOS "will continue to fund the current team in full, honouring all existing commitments to riders, staff and partners".

Sky Group CEO Jeremy Darroch said: "We are pleased that the team's future has been secured under new ownership.

"This brings to a close Sky's decade-long involvement with cycling, which has created unprecedented success and inspired millions more people to cycle regularly.

"I'd like to thank all members of Team Sky, past and present, for their contribution to our journey together.

"We wish the team and INEOS all the best for the future and look forward to watching the next chapter in the story."

Chris Froome, who has won six grand tours with the team, was delighted with the news and said on Twitter: "So excited that we as riders and staff will be able to continue on together for 2020 and beyond.

"Looking forward to continued success as Team INEOS! Massive thanks to everyone involved in keeping this special group of people together."