Fracking protesters threaten to disrupt Britain’s top cycling competition

Tycoon involved in exploration and petrochemicals targeted over cycling sponsorship

Jim Ratcliffe, CEO of British petrochemicals company INEOS, poses for a portrait with the Canary Wharf financial district seen behind, ahead of a news conference announcing the launch of a British America's Cup sailing team in London, Britain, April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Britain’s richest man is set to have his face depicted as ‘the devil’ in masks held by protestors critical over his petrochemical company sponsoring the UK’s most successful cycle team.

Ineos, owned by principal shareholder Sir Jim Ratcliffe, is the new sponsor of Team Sky which is set to be renamed after the company.

The change in sponsorship has sparked controversy with Ineos, one of the world’s largest producers of plastics, holding licenses to undertake fracking in North and South Yorkshire.

Fracking is the process of drilling underground to release gas inside.

Ineos is yet to start fracking, but proposed sites are along the Tour de Yorkshire cycle race route.

Campaigners against local fracking say they plan to unfurl banners at the end of the race course on 6 May showing their disapproval at Ineos’ plans.

Frack Free United environmentalist group has accused Ineos of “greenwashing” the company by sponsoring Britain’s most successful cycling team.

Cyclists of Team Sky, soon to be officially rebranded as Team Ineos, include Tour de France winners Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome, and is expected to attract sports enthusiasts from across the country in what is a major cycling event televised live.

Chris Froome is currently leading Team Sky in the Tour of the Alps, the final race before their name change.

Mr Ratcliffe is worth an estimated £21 billion, and announced £1bn worth of investments in the UK oil and chemical industries in February.