Portal praises Paris-Nice effort
With a second consecutive win at Paris-Nice in the books we caught up with Team Sky Sports Director Nicolas Portal for the low-down on the race.
Last Updated: 14/03/13 4:43pm
With a second consecutive win at Paris-Nice in the books for Team Sky we caught up with Sports Director Nicolas Portal for a look back at how the race panned out.
Richie Porte claimed the victory after an emphatic finish on the Col d’Eze time trial, mirroring the way Bradley Wiggins claimed the same title 12 months earlier.
With that event helping to kick off a year of impressive stage racing performances, the 2013 version was a confirmation of the strength in depth of the team.
While four of the eight riders in the squad (Porte, Danny Pate, Kanstantsin Siutsou and Xabier Zandio) rode the race last season, the other four were new additions over the winter, a fact that particularly pleases Portal.
The Frenchman said: “The level of the team was really impressive and it was good for us that all the new guys gelled and fitted into the Team Sky style of racing.”
Two of the new riders – Ian Boswell and Jonathan Tiernan-Locke – were also making their WorldTour debuts in the race, an experience Portal is sure will stick with them.
“It was great for us to have Ian and Jonathan here,” he added. “They were a key part of this victory and during the season they will remember what they’ve learnt here: that even though the racing is hard, we can still win as a team. I’m sure they found this to be the toughest race of their careers. The level is incredibly high and it is a stressful race. But when you have a guy like Ian who is pulling the bunch along for huge kilometres like on stage six, or Jonathan on the Cote de Mauvagnat, then they can look back and be really pleased with their performances.”
Not lacking in WorldTour experience but also new to the team, Portal also heaped praise onto Vasil Kiryienka and David López.
“David was 14th in the final time trial and I think certainly, without his puncture on stage four, he would have finished in the top 10 in this race. It’s not a surprise to me at all, as he is a really high-level rider. There were certain points in the race when he looked even stronger than Richie.
“The job that Kiri did on the penultimate stage to pull everything along was incredible. He is so strong and we knew that, but I think he even surprised himself at times. Coming back from his crash on stage three, you can see the calibre of rider he is.”
How the race was won
After the opening prologue in Houilles, the team spent the next few days gelling as a competitive unit. That was all that was needed as they quickly set about seizing the initiative when the climbs arrived.
Stage three on the Cote de Mauvagnat saw the team take it up for the first time, Pate, Zandio and Tiernan-Locke all instrumental as López and Porte bridged across to a select seven-man break.
Despite only taking seven seconds out of their rivals on the run into Brioude it was a key psychological blow. Porte, whose positioning was immaculate throughout the race, was visibly growing in confidence.
A day later in the finale of stage four, López was unlucky to pick up a puncture at a pivotal time in the race as the lead group split. Despite taking a wheel from team-mate Kiryienka, the Spaniard would finish in a group two minutes down on Porte’s lead selection.
After storming La Montagne de Lure, Porte jumped clear to take the stage and the race lead, the team then stepping up superbly the next day to defend yellow before the final showdown in Nice.
Taking the win
“Richie was putting pressure on himself, but the right kind of pressure,” said Portal on the lead-up to the final stage. “At the first split time when he was 21 seconds up, we just said, ‘Wow!’”
The win was an equally special moment for Portal, who along with the Tour of Oman, has won both his races from the team car this season. He admitted: “It’s such a nice feeling - for the riders, for the team and the whole group. When you plan something you have to have confidence and stick to the plan if you believe in it.
“That’s what we did and every day got better and better.”
Two stage wins and the overall were enough to move Porte and Team Sky to the head of the UCI WorldTour standings for riders and teams after the first two races.