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Tour de France 2019: Stage 19 cancelled due to hail, snow and mudslides

Stage 19 dramatically cut short due to extreme weather, leaving Egan Bernal the stage winner and new race leader

Stage 19 of the 2019 Tour de France was first neutralised and then cancelled mid-stage after a severe hailstorm led to a part of the road being blocked by partially frozen water, and entirely covered by a mudslide near the start of the final climb to Tignes in the high mountains of the Alps.

The localised extreme weather struck the race with the leaders having already come over the top of the 2,770m Col de l'Iseran and descending at high speed towards the final climb. The decision meant the summit of the Iseran became the official finish line, since that was the last point at which timing information was taken.

It meant Team Ineos rider Egan Bernal was declared the stage winner and takes over the yellow jersey from Julian Alaphillipe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), who was dropped by the race favourites midway up the climb and reached the summit over two minutes down on Bernal, and a minute behind his other key rivals Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos), Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) and Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe).

With time bonuses taken into account, Bernal now leads Alaphillipe by 48 seconds, with Thomas third at 1:16. However, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), who started the day fifth and was seen by many as the biggest threat to Alaphillipe's overall lead, was forced to withdraw from the race in tears with a leg injury.  

While the curtailing of the stage caused chaos and confusion among the riders, who were descending the Iseran in bright sunshine at the time the decision was taken to stop the race, it potentially saved Alaphillipe losing even more time to his rivals.

The Frenchman, one of the best descenders in the peloton, was clearly unhappy with the move given that he was starting to claw back time on the riders ahead, the chances are he would have lost it all again – and potentially more – had the stage gone the full distance to finish at the top of the 1st Category Montee de Tignes as planned.

As well as the reported snow, hail and the resulting flooded road, social media also carried news of a landslide that had covered part of the road towards the end of the stage.

Stage 19 race report

By George Smith

Bernal moved into yellow after being awarded the stage win following a bemusing finish which saw the race cancelled on the descent after the Col de l’Iseran due to snow, standing water and mudslides.

The summit of the Souvenir Henri Desgrange became the virtual finish line as terrible weather conditions meant it was unsafe for riders continue, meaning they missed out the final Category 1 climb into Tignes.

The confusing finish leaves the General Classification completely shaken up, as Alaphillipe lost the yellow jersey to Bernal and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) was forced to abandon ealier in the stage.

France’s blushes were somewhat spared by Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) keeping his polka-dot jersey - just, likely thanks to the final climb not being ridden, while Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Warren Barguill (Arkea-Samsic) found themselves taking second and third respectively on the stage.

The second of what are proving to be three decisive mountain days in the high altitude of south-eastern France should have seen riders tackle just 126.5km from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Tignes.

Despite the markedly shorter stage compared to yesterday - made even shorter by the cancellation - riders still had to face four categorised climbs, including the Hors Catégorie Col de l’Iseran.

It had all the trappings of a day suited for pure climbers to show their GC credentials, and the testing terrain and tense riding meant a high pace from the start strung out the peloton before they’d even reached the first categorised climb.

As a large and strong group of escapees - including Rigoberto Uran (Education First), Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Merida), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Simon Yates - set about establishing a stable lead at the front, Pinot was forced to abandon in tears with a muscle injury.

Caruso, chasing the polka dot jersey, took the maximum five points available from the second categorised climb of the day, Montée d'Aussois, as he closed the gap to current jersey wearer Bardet, who was struggling from the off.

As the breakaway extended their lead at the front on the way to the Col de la Madeleine, a Category 3 climb, their ranks continued to shrink as riders dropped off one by one. Caruso summited the peak unopposed to take an additional two KOM points.

With Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) having all but wrapped up the green jersey, the day’s intermediate sprint was uncontested as Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) crossed first ahead of Tony Gallopin (AG2R La Mondiale) and Barguil.

Team Ineos, with their rider Dylan van Baarle on the front, then turned up the heat and set a blistering pace up the brutal Col de l’Iseran - the Souvenir Henri Desgrange - to slash the gap from their leaders' group to the breakaway, hoovering up those who’d dropped off the pace out front.

Attack after attack from the yellow jersey group caused chaos, with Bernal sailing past the remnants of the breakaway to distance both his teammate Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) and Julian Alaphillipe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and take eight bonus seconds at the top of the climb.

On the lengthy descent into Tignes, during which Alaphillipe was recapturing some lost time on his rivals, the race was abruptly cancelled because of a freak storm that left the roads covered in snow and muck.

The immense pace coupled with the tough challenge meant that riders were spread out across the course when the news of the cancellation arrived.

With riders pulling over wherever they became aware, the finish became even more farcical as race organisers scrambled to summon enough vehicles to get everyone back to their hotel.