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Anti-fracking protesters target Team Ineos cyclists at Tour de Yorkshire

Demonstrators claim energy giant Ineos is trying to ‘greenwash’ it’s name by sponsoring a cycling team.

Team INEOS’ Chris Froome (left) waves to the crowd before stage one of the Tour de Yorkshire (Bradley Collyer/PA)
Team INEOS’ Chris Froome (left) waves to the crowd before stage one of the Tour de Yorkshire (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Environmental protesters have targeted the cycling team sponsored by energy giant Ineos.

The cyclists formerly known as Team Sky are taking part in the Tour de Yorkshire and demonstrators gathered at the team bus at the start of the event in Doncaster.

The protest comes after Friends of the Earth issued an open letter to team principal Sir Dave Brailsford, accusing chemical multinational Ineos of using sport to “greenwash” its name given its interests in fracking and its status as a large-scale producer of plastic.

But Sir Dave was dismissive and mocked the size of the protest.

“I had to hunt them down first because I couldn’t find them,” the Ineos team principal said. “There was hardly anybody there, let’s be honest, let’s be real.

“The 15,000 mob that was to attack me this morning didn’t really materialise.”

“If we’d had any concerns (about launching in Yorkshire) we wouldn’t have done it,” he added.

“We were right not to have any concerns because the people are here and they’re enjoying it.”

Questions about fracking and plastics dominated the Team Ineos launch press conference, which was held this week at a remote pub in North Yorkshire.

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Part of the protest at the start of the Tour de Yorkshire (Bradley Collyer/PA)

The British-registered squad are known as Team Ineos as of this week, after the team was sold to the UK’s richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who is the Ineos chairman.

Anti-fracking groups were among the several dozen protesters who waved placards outside the team bus where the opening stage of the race to Selby was due to start on Thursday.

One protester shouted “sell out” and “Judas” as riders emerged from the bus.

Another protester, Deborah Gibson, told the Press Association: “We’re here to raise the issue of Team Ineos basically being here to ‘green-sheen’ their brand.

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Protesters say fracking is bad for the environment (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“There is nothing green about what Ineos do.”

Ms Gibson, from Harthill in South Yorkshire, said several villages in her area are due to be fracked in the near future.

Elizabeth Clifton, from Misson, near Doncaster, said she had been protesting for several months over planned projects in her area, and described the Tour de Yorkshire as a “gift” for protesters.

“This is brilliant, absolutely brilliant,” she said. “Our group is up at the start and there’s a lot of people from different groups. I don’t think there’ll be anything physical. There may be some shouting.”

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Demonstrators gather outside the Team Ineos bus (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Critics say the amount of water needed for fracking is bad for the environment and claim it releases dangerous chemicals.

They also say governments should focus on renewable energy.

Ineos chairman Sir Jim has dismissed many of the concerns around fracking, calling many protest groups “ignorant”, criticising the Government for listening to a “noisy minuscule minority”, and insisting his company had made significant breakthroughs on expanding the recycling of plastic.

Fracking restarted in the UK last autumn in Lancashire after it was suspended in 2011 following two earthquakes in the Blackpool area.

After energy firm Cuadrilla began fracking at Preston New Road in October, work had to be halted on several occasions because tremors above regulated limits were detected.

Cuadrilla and Ineos have called for the regulations on tremors to be relaxed to allow them to exploit shale gas reserves.

PA

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