THE 19th stage of the Tour de France was brought to a halt by a hailstorm which has produced a new leader. JOHN TREVORROW reports:
COLOMBIAN Egan Bernal looks set to snaffle a remarkable victory in the Tour de France.
Bernal was the big winner during a shortened stage 19. Although the jury ruled there would be no official stage winner, Bernal took the yellow jersey after the race was cancelled on the descent of the Col d’Iseran. Hail and ice covered the road and officials had no option but to cancel the first ever stage in Le Tour.
This year’s edition just keeps on surprising! In the middle of a French heatwave suddenly a snowplough is required and a hailstorm stops the most famous bike race.
The 22-year-old Colombian Bernal attacked up the Col d’Iseran, after teammate Geraint Thomas put the pedal to the metal and had yellow jersey Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck QuickStep) in major trouble on the highest peak in this year’s tour.
Bernal soon caught the last of the breakaway riders which included Simon Yates (Mitchelton Scott) who had been sitting comfortably in the lead group.
In actual fact Mitchelton Scott had planned for this exact scenario and Yates was devastated when the stage was cancelled as he felt it was a perfect chance to take a third stage victory.
“Yes it’s disappointing for Simon,” said Matt White, Mitchelton Scott Sports Director. “He had planned for exactly this to happen. Simon let Bernal go over the top of the Iseran knowing he would catch him quickly on the descent, which he did. But that’s bike racing and the officials had no option but to stop the race.”
It was a double whammy for the French. Their two heroes both suffered. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama FDJ) had to retire early in the stage with a torn thigh and he had been the best climber in the Pyrenees. Then race leader Julian Alaphilippe cracked on what was to be the final climb of the day.
I have to say chapeau to both Pinot and Alaphilippe. They breathed new life into the Tour de France and one of them will win the Tour in the next couple of years – I’m just not sure who will be first.
Alaphilippe seemed upset when the race was stopped as were many others.
The Frenchman was descending like a demon and looked certain to catch the group containing Thomas by the bottom of the descent of the Col d’Iseran. But he should count his blessings as I’m sure he would have lost much more time on the final 12 km haul to Tignes and would have been well off the podium if the stage had continued.
The race organisers have now decided to shorten the final Alpine stage to just 59km.
The stage will still start in Albertville and finish in Val Thorens, as planned, but two climbs will be cut out of the middle of the stage. The category 1 Cormet de Roseland and category 2 Côte de Longefoy have been pulled from the race.
“Following difficult weather and landslides forecast for tomorrow, the route of the 20th stage of the Tour de France has been modified,” a statement from the organisers read.
There was no official winner of the 19th stage but the finishing order of the riders at the top of the Col d’Iseran was as follows:
Egan Bernal 2.40.31, Simon Yates 2.40.44, Warren Barguil 2.41.11, Laurens De Plus, Steven Kruijswijk, Geraint Thomas, Emanual Buchmann, Vincenzo Nibali, Rigoberto Uran, Mikel Landa, Richie Porte 2.41.51, Julian Alaphilippe 2.42.41.
Overall standings: Egan Bernal leads, Julian Alaphilippe +45sec, Geraint Thomas +1min 03, Steven Kruijswijk +1:15, Emanuel Buchmann +1:42. Richie Porte is in 10th place at 6.28.