Team Ineos have revamped their management structure following the tragically premature death of head directeur sportif Nicolas Portal in March, team boss Dave Brailsford has said.
Having adopted a traditional approach to their directeur sportif structure since 2010, with first Sean Yates and then Portal very much the figurehead, Brailsford told Cyclingnews that the team is now putting in place a more collective structure that will see as many as four of their team directors playing key roles during the Tour de France at the end of this month.
"Obviously, we had to make a change, and in fact we've introduced a new structure. So, rather than relying on the experience of one individual, Nico having developed that over all that time as our lead DS, we're now focused on having a group of directeurs having input and making sure that we work in such a way that we can share all of the collective knowledge within the team, so that we can all benefit from that," Brailsford told Cyclingnews prior to the start of the second stage of the Route d'Occitanie in Carcassonne.
"We didn't think about bringing anyone else in. We're confident in the people that we've got, and we simply have to make sure we share collective knowledge and experience," Brailsford continued.
"For now we'd like to develop from within and give people who are on the team already the opportunity to step up. I think that's important for them because it shows that there is a way that they can move forwards in their careers."
Brailsford described the new structure as being designed to provide "the right insights and information to inform the directeurs so that they can make the right decisions." It is, he added, based on the objective of "making the best use of the people and resources we've got, rather than going on blindly using the structure we previously had.
"We're going to take more of our directeurs than usual to the Tour. For now, Gabba [Gabriel Rasch] has taken on the lead role, but it's not going to be the same kind of role that Nico had for eight or nine years. We've looked at the way the DS group, the coaching group and the performance group work, and we've restructured in all those areas so that we can adapt."
In addition to the highly experienced Rasch and Servais Knaven, assistant directors Xabi Zandio and Oli Cookson will be involved at the Tour, as will Xabi Artetxe, who coaches Egan Bernal. "Then, of course, we've also got the experience that Tim [Kerrison] and I can offer after more than 10 years working with this team."
Brailsford admitted that the return to racing had brought Portal very much into the minds of everyone on the Ineos team, especially as the Route d'Occitanie passes through the Frenchman's home region.
"It feels like he's in the back of the bus there still," he said. "I go in there and half-expect to have a chat with him, about racing or something completely unrelated.
"I think the lockdown stopped us thinking about it to some extent and now a lot of emotion is coming out."
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).