Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome have both shared their grief over the loss of Team Ineos sports director Nicolas Portal.
Frenchman Portal died suddenly on Tuesday afternoon (March 3) at his home in Andorra from a heart attack, at 40 years old.
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The former pro ended his racing career with Sky Procycling in 2010 due to a heart condition, but joined the British WorldTour squad as a manager.
Chris Froome, four-time Tour de France winner, said: “My thoughts are with Nico’s wife and children tonight. He was the kindest, happiest guy I knew and always lived life to the fullest.
“Rest in peace Nico.”
In 2013, Portal took on the sports director mantle at the Tour de France, where he guided Chris Froome to his first Tour win.
Portal was driving the team car for all of Froome’s four Tour victories, his 2017 Vuelta a España win and the 2018 Giro d’Italia victory.
But the Grand Tour winning legacy doesn’t end with Froome.
Portal was the sports director behind Geraint Thomas’s 2018 Tour victory and Egan Bernal’s history-making yellow jersey win last year.
Thomas said: “Can’t quite get my head around it, it’s too sad. Nico was so talented, warm, genuine and always there when I needed him. He was more than my colleague, he was my friend.
“My thoughts are with his wife and children, who he put above everything else. I’ll always remember him dancing with his little girl in Paris in to the early hours. He was too young to be taken away from them.
“Nico, I’ll miss you mate, you were one of the good ones.”
Portal started his racing career in 2001 with AG2R Prévoyance, going on to ride for Caisse d’Epargne before he spent his last year in the peloton with Sky Procycling in 2010.
Team Ineos rider Owain Doull said: “Still in absolute disbelief, one of the kindest and most genuine people I have ever met. The passion and belief he had for the sport and the team are something which will be greatly missed. RIP Nico, forever in our hearts.”