Today’s Stage 19 of the Tour de France was set to be a decisive one, with a 13-kilometer ascent up the Col de l’Iseran, followed up by a winding descent into the Val d’Isere, and capped off with a summit finish into the town of Tignes. It would’ve made for great racing, and in fact it did, until the race was canceled shortly after the leaders made their way over the l’Iseran because of a sudden violent storm that had made the other side of the pass unrideable.
Colombian Egan Bernal attacked on the climb and made it over the summit first, and he was in the process of being chased down by the rest of the general classification contenders when riders were told that the stage had ended. Rather than attempt to relocate the riders over to Tignes, or find some other way to make sure that everyone was racing towards a commonly agreed upon finish line, organizers awarded everyone their times at the top of the Col de l’Iseran. There was no stage winner, but because he took 2:07 on race leader Julian Alaphilippe, he also walked into the yellow jersey. The chaotic ending was reminiscent of the time huge crowds briefly forced Chris Froome to run up the side of a mountain.
Bernal was elated, and Alaphilippe was particularly dejected since he was denied the opportunity to make up time on the descent. On Thursday’s stage, Alaphilippe conducted a master class in descending, and he was certainly hoping to close down some of the gap to Bernal in an attempt to save his yellow jersey. He glumly conceded that his race was over afterward. Since Thibaut Pinot also abandoned today with an injury, it does not appear that a French rider will win the Tour.
As sad as Alaphilippe was, there was no way anyone should have ridden through this unholy mess:
Tomorrow’s stage, the final competitive stage before the procession into Paris on Sunday, will end on a 33.4-kilometer climb. Bernal has a 45-second gap on Alaphilippe and over a minute on the rest of his rivals. Given that Alaphilippe has admitted he probably can’t put that much time into the leader, Bernal stands a great chance at becoming the first Colombian to win the Tour, as well as the youngest rider in the modern era at 22 years old.
Update, 4:33 p.m. ET: Tomorrow’s decisive stage has been significantly shortened in response to a series of landslides. The race will be 59 kilometers instead of 130, and two categorized climbs have been axed from the course. The stage will still finish with a 33.4-kilometer ascent of Val Thorens.