'Riders at next week’s Tour de Yorkshire could be greeted by up to 10,000 people wearing masks depicting the UK’s richest man as the devil after his chemical company took over sponsorship of cycling’s most successful team.
Billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, who has lobbied to weaken green taxes and reduce restrictions on fracking, is the main shareholder of Ineos, which has been announced as the new sponsor of what was Team Sky – home to Tour de France winners Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas.
The Tour de Yorkshire, which starts in Doncaster next Thursday, will be the team’s first outing in Ineos kit. Protests are expected all along the route of the four-day race by campaigners incensed at the firm’s involvement in the sport – and its determination to frack for shale gas in the county.
Steve Mason from Frack Free United said the group had ordered 10,000 face masks of Ratcliffe with devil’s horns to give out to cycling fans during the race, and said other local activists were planning special anti-Ineos “land art” to be captured by helicopter cameras televising the race.
“I don’t think fossil fuels should be included in sport,” said Mason. “There is particular irony with the Ineos sponsorship after Team Sky spent last summer riding around with whales on the back of their jerseys to raise awareness of plastics in the ocean.”
Ineos is one of the world’s biggest plastics producers and also holds extensive licences to frack for shale gas across Yorkshire, as well as the east Midlands and Cheshire. Many of its proposed sites are along the Tour de Yorkshire route.'
Read more: Anti-fracking protesters to line Tour de Yorkshire route
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