Nicolas Portal talks to the riders in 2015 in Alcudia, Spain.
CNN  — 

A leading cycling boss – Team Ineos sporting director Nicolas Portal – has died at the age of 40.

The Frenchman played a key role in Team Sky – the cycling outfit then underwent a rebrand following Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s takeover – winning six Tour de France titles between 2013 and 2019.

A statement from the team announced that Portal had died suddenly at his home in Andorra on Tuesday afternoon.

“We are all overcome with grief at this terrible news and would ask everyone to respect the family’s privacy at this difficult time,” the statement read.

“RIP Nico - your spirit will always be with us on the road and you will forever be in our hearts.”

A former professional cyclist himself, Portal finished his career riding with Team Sky.

He competed six times in the Tour de France, before retiring in 2010 and taking over as Team Ineos’ sporting director in 2013 following Sean Yates’ retirement.

French sports daily L’Equipe reported Portal died of cardiac arrest. When he was a professional cyclist, Portal missed most of the 2009 season because of cardiac arrhythmia.

Under Portal’s stewardship, Chris Froome won the Tour de France four times, Geraint Thomas rode to victory in 2018 before the then 22-year-old Colombian Egan Bernal won last year.

Froome paid his respects on Twitter, saying: “My thoughts are with Nico’s wife and children tonight. He was the kindest, happiest guy I knew and always lived life to the fullest. Rest In Peace Nico.”