Photos Yahoo Sport, report Barry Ryan from Cycling News

Nicolas Portal’s eight Grand Tour victories made him one of the most successful directors sportifs in cycling history, but the amiable Frenchman’s calm and unassuming demeanour could hardly have been further removed from the more authoritarian style once seemingly de rigueur for the role. Chris Froome, who was guided by Portal in each of his four Tour de France victories, spoke for many when he described his late confidant as “the kindest, happiest guy I knew”. The sentiment has been echoed in many of the tributes that have been paid to Portal by his former charges and teammates in the hours since it was announced that he had died after suffering a heart attack at his home in Andorra on Tuesday. He was 40 years old.

As a collective entity, Team Ineos – previously Team Sky – has never enjoyed a reputation for openness or friendliness, but the smiling Portal was an antidote to the team’s buttoned-down corporate image. On good days and bad, Portal was always to be found outside the team bus before and after races, politely fielding media requests in French, English and Spanish. Indeed, Portal even insisted on conducting his interviews with one British journalist in Spanish – a relic of his time at Caisse d’Epargne – in order to help him keep up his practice of the language and aid his communication with Sky’s growing contingent of South American riders.

Portal was a successful cyclist during his own professional career with a stage victory at the 2004 Critérium du Dauphiné, where he took a solo win in Aubenas. He raced seven Grand Tours – six Tours de France and the Vuelta an España once – and finished inside the top 10 on three occasions during stages of the Grande Boucle.  His career highlights also included top-10 overall finishes at the 4 Jours de Dunkerque and the Tour du Limousin, and 16th at Paris-Roubaix.

Nicolas had heart problems in 2009 and had surgery…this time he couldn’t be revived and leaves a wife and 2 children behind…The Belgian Project sent his sincere condolences to his family and friends in the sport…RIP Nicolas…far too young to be taken away