Sky sports director Nicolas Portal left the Liège-Bastogne-Liège team and rushed home last night for the birth of his daughter. His wife went into labour early, welcoming baby Aïnoa early this morning.
Portal wrote a text message to the team this morning, “Don’t worry, I’ll be watching the race from TV at home.”
Portal’s second child was due on May 5, leaving him free to guide the team tomorrow in the one-day classic. However, about 10 or 11 last night, he received a call from his wife that their baby was arriving early. He drove the 10 hours through the night from the team’s base in Maastricht to Pau, France.
He updated the team, “She’s 3.6kg. Arrived at 3am.”
Aïnoa is a name of a village in the Basque Country.
Performance manager, Rod Ellingworth told Cycling Weekly today that Servais Knaven will arrive to lead the team.
Portal was due to carry on to the Tour of Romandy, but now is unsure of his schedule. As planned, he will be the DS for the team in the Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour de France.
Yesterday in a press conference, he said it has been going well. When he has been in the car, the team has either won or placed on the podium in races, including Paris-Nice, Critérium International and Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday.
Portal, 33, transferred from rider to sports director at the end of the 2010 season.
“In 2010, the first week of the Vuelta a España, I met with Dave [Brailsford], he told me, ‘Nico, I have a plan for you.’ I said ‘yes.’ He told me, ‘be a DS with us.’ I said, ‘Dave, let’s not talk too much,’” Portal said.
“I told him, ‘I don’t speak English, I’m very young. How can I do that? Speak at the front of the bus to the older riders like [Mat] Hayman or [Juan Antonio] Flecha.’
“On my way back to Pau. I kept thinking about it. Every morning and every day, I keep thinking about it. I called Sean Yates. He told me I could do it. It’s just about respect, not age that you need.”
He looked to Porte in the press conference and he said it is easy to have his track record given such riders.
“I’m in the car, following the best riders,” Portal added. “It’s amazing, a great sensation. I was a rider, but never at the level of Richie or [Chris] Froome. Thanks to them, though, I feel like I’m winning the races. It’s the same as any one in the team feels when we win, the same for a domestique, a rider like Xabier Zandio.”
Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2013: The Big Preview