The race organisation at the Route d’Occitanie is planning to pay tribute to Team Ineos DS Nico Portal prior to one of the final stages at the four-day race that got under way today [Saturday]. Portal, who died in early March, came from the department of Gers, which will host a good part of the final stage, and often trained on the roads that will feature on the key mountain stage to the Col de Beyrède on Monday.
Ineos team boss Dave Brailsford told Cyclingnews that the race organisation have been liaising with Portal’s family.
“I believe there is something planned for Monday or Tuesday. It sounds like there will be some kind of tribute, with Magalie, his partner, and his kids particularly involved,” said Brailsford. One option being considered is for Portal’s young son to wave the flag to start the final stage.
The Ineos boss said that he had stopped in Auch to see Portal’s family as he travelled to the Route d’Occitanie. “It was very sad actually,” he said. “They were doing well, but it was a real reminder that the last public occasion we had was Nico’s funeral. After that we all went into this lockdown for a long time, and coming back is a reminder of how much we’re missing him. I think this is going to be in everyone’s mind for quite a while.
“It does give this race particular significance,” Brailsford continued. “Now we’ve all come out of lockdown, away from our own houses, I think it’s hit quite a few of us that Nico is not around because we’re so used to having him with us. It’ll be very nice that we’ll get the chance to pay our respects.”
Tour de France champion Egan Bernal echoed Brailsford’s comments. “It’s a special race for us being on Nico’s home ground. We’re all feeling a good degree of nostalgia and I think we’d like to remember him in the best way possible if we can,” the Colombian said just before the start of Occitanie’s first stage in Saint Affrique.
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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).
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