Environmental groups have criticised British Cycling for entering an eight-year deal with Shell UK ©Getty Images

British Cycling has entered a long-term partnership with oil and gas giant Shell UK in a deal running until 2030, but the national governing body has faced fierce criticism from environmental groups.

British Cycling claimed that the agreement would feature a shared commitment to supporting the country's athletes.

"We’re looking forward to working alongside Shell UK over the rest of this decade to widen access to the sport, support our elite riders and help our organisation and sport take important steps towards net zero - things we know our members are incredibly passionate about," British Cycling chief executive Brian Facer said.

"Within our new commercial programme, this partnership with Shell UK brings powerful support for cycling, will help us to improve and will make more people consider cycling and cyclists."

The partnership includes investment from Shell UK for a new Limitless programme aiming to improve the access of disabled people to cycling through initiatives including the creation of inclusive and accessible environments in registered clubs.

However, environmental groups have lambasted British Cycling's decision to partner with Shell, and the announcement prompted a furious reaction on social media, with "greenwashing" among the criticisms laid against it and a number of users threatening to cancel their membership.

Helen Ward, a Professor of Public Health at Imperial College London, said on Twitter that she had "resigned" from British Cycling.

British television presenter and naturalist Chris Packham described the move as a "disaster".

"So out of touch it defies belief," Packham said on Twitter.

"For a sport followed by so many who pedal for environmental and health benefits this is a disaster.

"Whatever you 'win' you’ve lost all credibility and it won’t be eight years before you rue this decision."

Greenpeace UK policy director Dr Doug Parr dismissed British Cycling's claims that the partnership could help it to achieve net zero emissions.

"The idea of Shell helping British Cycling reach net zero is as absurd as beef farmers advising lettuce farmers on how to go vegan," he said, as reported by the BBC.

"After being booted out of museums and other cultural institutions, Big Oil are looking at sports as the next frontier for their brazen greenwash.

"But their aim hasn't changed - to distract from the inconvenient fact that the fossil fuel industry is making our planet uninhabitable."