Sky to end involvement in Team Sky after 2019 season

Geraint Thomas (left) and Chris Froome (right) celebrate making the Tour de France podium in Paris Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Sky will end its involvement in cycling after the 2019 season in a move that could end Team Sky's participation in professional road races such as the Tour de France, the team announced Wednesday.

The team, which has won eight Grand Tours since 2012, will continue to race under a different name if a new sponsor is secured to provide funding from the beginning of 2020.

"We can't predict what will happen from 2020 and there are no guarantees," Team Sky admitted in an open letter to fans.

"Whatever happens, we will make sure there is clarity one way or the other about the future of the Team before the Tour de France next July."

Team Sky was founded in 2009 and raced for the first time a year later. The aim for the team was to see a Brit win the Tour de France for the first time within five years. An aim it achieved in just two with Sir Bradley Wiggins' historic victory in 2012. Five further Tour de France titles followed for the team, four for Chris Froome, while Geraint Thomas triumphed earlier this year.

However, the team's rise to the top of professional cycling has been controversial with Sky's huge budget dwarfing that of its rivals -- the media giant has invested more than £180m over the last 10 years in the team. There have also been several allegations of cheating in recent years, the most high-profile of which was UK Anti-Doping Agency's [UKAD] investigation into the team over a 'jiffy-bag' delivered to Wiggins at the Criterium du Dauphine in 2011.

UKAD dropped its investigation in 2017 because of "the lack of contemporaneous evidence". However, following that investigation, a parliamentary inquiry launched by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport ruled that the team had "crossed an ethical line" in its manipulation of the anti-doping system.

There was also controversy last year with Froome returning an urine test at the Vuelta a Espana, a race he went on to win, that found he had double the permitted level of asthma drug Salbutamol in his system. The presidents of the UCI and WADA went on to agree that Froome had no case to answer.

On Sky's decision, team principle Sir Dave Brailsford said: "While Sky will be moving on at the end of next year, the team is open-minded about the future and the potential of working with a new partner, should the right opportunity present itself.

"We aren't finished yet by any means. There is another exciting year of racing ahead of us and we will be doing everything we can to deliver more Team Sky success in 2019.

"For now, I would like to thank all Team Sky riders and staff, past and present -- and above all the fans who have supported us on this adventure."

Comcast has recently completed the takeover of Sky in a deal valued at around £30bn ($38bn) after outbidding 21st Century Fox. With that in mind, Sky's chief executive Jeremy Darroch believes now is the right time for the company to review the projects they are involved in.

In a statement, Darroch said: "The end of 2019 is the right time for us to move on as we open a new chapter in Sky's story and turn our focus to different initiatives including our Sky Ocean Rescue campaign."

The team's riders, including Thomas and Froome were told of the decision overnight during a winter training camp in Mallorca.

Team Sky have recently signed new long-term contracts with some members of its roster. Thomas signed a new three-year deal with the team in September while promising 21-year-old Colombian rider Egan Bernal, who is seen by the team as a future Grand Tour winner, signed a new five-year deal in October.

21st Century Fox has also announced it is ending its association with professional cycling. The organisation held a minority stake of 15 percent in Team Sky.