Dave Brailsford resigns as Ineos Grenadiers team principal to focus on Manchester United

Brailsford's departure comes almost 15 years after he co-founded the team and just months after the resignation of Rod Ellingworth, as internal shakeup continues

Clock15:43, Saturday 20th January 2024
Dave Brailsford was the figurehead of Team Sky and Ineos Grenadiers for many years

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Dave Brailsford was the figurehead of Team Sky and Ineos Grenadiers for many years

Sir Dave Brailsford, the long-standing figurehead of Ineos Grenadiers, has resigned as team principal in the wake of Sir Jim Ratcliffe's investment into the English Premier League football club, Manchester United.

As first reported by The Telegraph, Ineos Grenadiers removed Brailsford from their official website on Friday night, marking the departure of Brailsford as a member of staff of the cycling team for the first time since he co-founded the WorldTeam in 2009.

The 59-year-old had taken a step back from running the day-to-day operations of Ineos Grenadiers, formerly Team Sky, in recent years, but remained as the team principal alongside his wider responsibilities as Ineos' Director of Sport. However, his focus will now be elsewhere as Ineos Grenadiers continue the 2024 racing season.

With his purchase of 25 per cent rising to 29 per cent of Manchester United last month, Ratcliffe has tasked Brailsford with undertaking an audit of the club's football operations, and it is understood that Brailsford informed Ineos Grenadiers' staff and riders of his departure at the team's training camp in Mallorca last month.

Ratcliffe recently called his purchase of Manchester United "the most exciting thing" he's ever done, but the British football club is just another in a string of sporting operations that is now owned by Ratcliffe's petrochemicals company, Ineos.

The British billionaire purchased Ineos Grenadiers from Sky UK in 2019, whilst Ineos also owns or co-owns a number of other sporting teams, including Ligue 1 football club OGC Nice, the Mercedes Formula One team and Sir Ben Ainslie's America's Cup sailing team. The recent purchase of shares of Manchester United from the Glazer family, however, does represent the most ambitious business endeavour of Ratcliffe's recent years.

With Brailsford already spotted at Manchester United fixtures and positioned as a key figure in the ongoing football operations of the world-renowned club, his departure from Ineos Grenadiers does not come as a great surprise. Though it does mark the end of an era for one of British sport's most successful teams, who won seven Tours de France under Brailsford's stewardship.

Brailsford follows Rod Ellingworth out the door as transition continues

Almost two months ago to the day, Brailsford's departure was preceded by that of deputy team principal, Rod Ellingworth. With much of Brailsford's time in recent seasons taken up by the responsibilities of being Ineos' Director of Sport, Ellingworth had been in charge of the day-to-day operations at Ineos Grenadiers.

Read more: Rod Ellingworth resigns from Ineos Grenadiers

However, both men have now left the British WorldTeam and for the first time in the team's history, neither Brailsford nor Ellingworth will head up the side heading into the European road season. In Ellingworth's place, new chief executive officer John Allert will assume the role of Ineos Grenadiers' figurehead and The Telegraph reports that Allert is due to speak to the media next week.

Upon his appointment as the team's CEO in December, Allert spoke of his excitement for the future: "It is a privilege to lead this team going forward. I'm humbled by the talent of our rider group, my teammates, the calibre of our partners, and the opportunity to work hard together and write a new chapter of success for the Ineos Grenadiers.

"This team has created an incredible and successful legacy, but our ambitions for the future are greater than ever. The strengthening of our performance team is perfectly aligned with these ambitions," he said.

Read more: Ineos Grenadiers name new CEO and performance director after Rod Ellingworth departure

Both Brailsford and Ellingworth were co-founders of the team, then known as Team Sky, in 2009, as Britain's first WorldTeam received the extraordinary backing of media megalith Sky UK. With Brailsford now no longer a member of the team's management group, the last of the old guard has left the building, with fellow co-founder Fran Millar leaving in 2020 to become the CEO of British fashion brand, Belstaff.

Brailsford and Ellingworth are just the latest in a raft of departures from Ineos Grenadiers over the past months. The team's Head of Performance and Support, Ben Williams, left for a role with Queen's Park Rangers last summer, whilst sports directors Matteo Tosatto and Roger Hammond both left for pastures new over the winter.

Read more:

In addition, valued riders such as Pavel Sivakov, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Dani Martínez all left in the off-season, as the transition continues in the British WorldTeam. Once the hegemonic force in Grand Tours through the likes of Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal, Ineos Grenadiers will have gone five years without a win at the Tour de France by this summer's edition, and their reign as the sport's best team has been ended by Visma-Lease a Bike and UAE Team Emirates of late.

Only time will tell how the recent shakeup plays out, but Thomas became the first rider to speak of his disappointment at Ellingworth's departure in November, and Brailsford's exit will no doubt leave fans of the team feeling like a chapter has been closed if nothing else.

Read more: Geraint Thomas gutted to see Rod Ellingworth quit Ineos Grenadiers

Seven Tours de France, 12 Grand Tours and countless Olympic medals

Dave Brailsford, or Sir Dave Brailsford CBE to give him his full title, has been involved in cycling for most of his adult life. Somewhat humble beginnings as a sales manager with Planet X Bikes led to his arrival as a consultant with British Cycling in 1998, but the man from Derbyshire would soon become integral to performance cycling within the country.

Brailsford became the performance director of British Cycling in 2003 and would serve in the role until April 2014, during which time Great Britain achieved unprecedented success in the Commonwealth and Olympic Games. An MBE awarded in 2005 was followed by a CBE and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year's Coach Award in 2008, and finally, a knighthood in 2012 in the wake of Britain's golden summer.

Given his success with British Cycling, Brailsford was the man to head up the country's first UCI WorldTeam in 2009, and it would not take long before Team Sky achieved the seemingly impossible. When the squad officially launched in 2010, Brailsford outlined his mission to have a British winner of the Tour de France within five years.

At the time, to most of the cycling world, the idea of a British Tour de France winner was almost laughable, despite Bradley Wiggins' fourth place at the 2009 Tour (later upgraded to third on account of Lance Armstrong's doping admission).

But within two years, Sky had achieved their dream and Wiggins stood triumphantly as the winner of the 2012 Tour de France.

Over Brailsford's near-15-year run as the head of Team Sky/Team Ineos/Ineos Grenadiers, the side won the Tour de France seven times with Wiggins, Froome, Thomas and Bernal, twice claimed the Vuelta a España crown through Froome and picked off three Giro d'Italia victories between Froome, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Bernal.

His time in charge, however, was not without its controversies, with Ineos Grenadiers often maligned for their 'marginal gains' philosophy which gained them both critics and doubters alike. A House of Commons Committee report proved particularly damning in 2018.

Entitled 'Combatting Doping in Sport,' Chapter 2 of the report alleged that British Cycling and Team Sky had crossed a so-called "ethical line" in their use of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) "to enhance the performance of riders."

Gaining TUEs on medical grounds was within the rules allowed by both WADA and the UCI, but to many, the report indicated that Team Sky, in particular, had abused the system and gained an unfair advantage over their rivals. This was always strongly denied by the team.

Additionally, former Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman was struck off the medical register in 2021 for having banned testosterone gels delivered to British Cycling headquarters, resulting in his later four-year ban by UK Anti-Doping.

None of these controversies, however, have ever directly implicated Brailsford, nor have they ever resulted in medals or trophies being taken away from British Cycling or Ineos Grenadiers. Whilst Brailsford has now stepped away from Ineos Grenadiers, he will still remain loosely involved with the team through his role as Ineos Director of Sport. The new Ineos Grenadiers CEO John Allert will report directly to Brailsford.

Neither Ineos Grenadiers nor Dave Brailsford has yet to make a public comment on the news.

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