Tour de France: Hailstorm halts stage 19 in Alps
Last Alpine stage of Tour on Saturday shortened to just 59km because of adverse weather conditions; Geraint Thomas vows to support team-mate and yellow jersey holder Egan Bernal
Last Updated: 26/07/19 9:01pm
Colombian Egan Bernal took the yellow jersey in bizarre circumstances as stage 19 of the Tour de France was called off due to hail and snow in the Alps.
Team Ineos rider Bernal holds the overall lead from France's Julian Alaphilippe after a hailstorm and reported landslides forced Friday's stage to be stopped before the final climb into Tignes.
Commissaires ruled that times would be taken at the top of the Col de l'Iseran, which gave Bernal both the stage victory and the yellow jersey as he had attacked on the penultimate climb of the 126.5km stage from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.
Race organisers announced on Friday night that the final Alpine stage on Saturday will be shortened to 59 kilometers because of adverse weather conditions in the mountain range.
Defending champion Geraint Thomas is in third place, one minute 16 seconds down, and has pledged to help team-mate Bernal win the Tour, saying: "For sure he'll have a decent advantage over everyone else, so we'll fully support him now."
The stoppage, as riders were flying through hairpin bends down from the Iseran climb, threw the race into chaos.
TV coverage showed a snowplough trying to clear the road of snow and ice, as the riders were speeding toward that section of the stage.
Ineos team manager Dave Brailsford said: "There has been a landslide, quite a considerable landslide and you have to make sure everyone is alright. There is bike racing, then there is the health and safety of everybody."
Earlier in the day, Thibaut Pinot's Tour had ended in pain, and tears, as the Frenchman was forced to abandon the race after injuring his left leg.
Pinot, who brought excitement to the race in the Pyrenees last week with strong attacks and posted a prestigious stage win at the top of the Tourmalet, had hoped to make the most of the last two Alpine stages to close the gap on race leader Alaphilippe.
Pinot's sports director Philippe Mauduit said: "As he avoided a crash, his left knee hit the handlebar and the pain just got worse.
"We've been hoping for an improvement but we knew this morning that it would be complicated if the race was hard. He's been in pain since the start. It wasn't possible to keep riding."