Ice and mud wreak havoc on Tour de France ahead of penultimate stage
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Organisers of the Tour de France cycling race have cut short Saturday’s 20th stage due to severe storms which provoked landslides on the course. Friday's dramatic early finish put Colombian Egan Bernal in the yellow jersey ahead of Sunday's finale in Paris.
While most of France was recovering from the record-breaking heatwave, riders in the Tour de France on Friday were facing their own dramas with the weather.
"Following difficult weather and landslides forecast for tomorrow, the route of the 20th stage of the Tour de France has been modified," said a statement by the organisers at the end of the stage on Friday.
The stage from Albertville to Val Thorens in the French Alps will now be raced over just 59km rather than the scheduled 130km.
"Three mudslides occurred in the descent at Cormet de Roselend," Tour Director Christian Prudhomme told AFP in reference to the opening section of Saturday's planned route.
"One of them has damaged the road conditions and we cannot go there. It's the only possible decision."
Fresh mudslides possible
Friday's 19th stage halted due to a spectacular hailstorm and a landslide affected the run from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Tignes.
The stage had no official winner, but the yellow jersey went to Egan Bernal of Team Ineos, as he crossed the day's penultimate summit first.
He was racing downhill with Simon Yates when the pair were told of the danger ahead. The road to Tignes was buried in hail and rubble from a landslide.
"It's a big day tomorrow and I haven't won the Tour yet. I need to concentrate and fight to keep the lead," said Bernal, who led atop the Col de l'Iseran in the Alps where the race times were taken when the stage was halted.
Julian Alaphilippe, who had been furiously chasing Bernal on the descent when the race cancellation was announced, accepted his fate. “I was expecting this,” he said of Bernal’s decisive attack. “I gave everything but I was beaten by a stronger rider. I don’t think I can get the yellow jersey back but it was a dream to have worn it for so long. It was longer than I could have imagined.”
Alaphilippe wore the yellow jersey for 14 days, carrying the hopes of a public eager to see a French winner for the first time since Bernard Hinault in 1985.
Pinot capitulates, in tears
Earlier, France's other yellow jersey hope Thibaut Pinot was also ruled out.
Trailing behind the peloton in tears, Pinot pulled out an hour into the race, still suffering from the thigh injury picked up in a crash two days ago.
Saturday's 20th stage finishes with the longest climb of the Tour at the end of which the race leader will be the de facto winner, ahead of Sunday's parade through Paris and sprint finish on the Champs Elysees.
Defending champion Geraint Thomas, also of Ineos, is third overall at 1min 16sec off Bernal's pace.