Tour de France (st. 19)
Hailstorm and a landslide over the descent of the Col de l’Iseran force to neutralize and stop stage 19 of the Tour de France. Bernal (INS) becomes GC leader; Landa now 6th overall after reaching top of TDF with main contenders.
Nature frustrated a big spectacle on Friday’s stage 19 of the 2019 Tour de France, initially scheduled to cover 127.5km from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to the ski resort of Tignes. Hailstorm and a landslide over the downhill of the Col de l’Iseran forced the race jury and organisers to stop a race where the Movistar Team had again played a combative role with some of its biggest names.
Alejandro Valverde and Andrey Amador were part, together with Marc Soler -later dropped back-, of an early break featuring nearly thirty riders, which ammassed a two-minute gap over the main race favourites. INEOS’ pace in the opening slopes of the Iseran completely shattered the GC group -Nairo Quintana out the back halfway through the ascent- and forced Valverde and Amador, once caught, to work for Landa, whose enormous effort into the second half of the climb allowed him reaching the GC group just before the top. Ahead, Egan Bernal (INS) flew towards the race leadership, though the race jury’s decision was not to award the stage victory today due to the exceptional circumstances.
The neutralization and subsequent stop at the descent meant Landa -10th in the stage ‘result’, 1’03” back- now sits in 6th overall (+4’35”). The Tour will be decided on Saturday’s stage twenty, a shortened route -59km- also due to landslides, set to end with the long, 33-kilometer ascent towards Val Thorens (HC).
Alejandro Valverde: “It was a bit of a strange day, wasn’t it? We were into the early break only thinking about the main group, on having Mikel go for his chance and hopefully give him a hand. Once we started the downhill, with Mikel already in a good position ahead, ‘Arri’ started to scream on the radio that the stage was cancelled, that there was so much hail on the ground and some landslides on the road. We stopped in Val d’Isère and Christian Prudhomme explained to us there that it was all blocked and we couldn’t keep on racing, it was over. They told us they were most probably going to take the times up at the top of the Iseran. We couldn’t really do anything else, other than getting into the cars, going to the finish and starting thinking about tomorrow’s final battle.”
Cover picture (c): BettiniPhoto