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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, July 27, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart. - Helen Keller

Cycling's 50 Craziest Stories

Current racing:

Latest completed racing:

Tour de France stage 20 shortened to 59km

The Tour organization posted this update:

Due to the difficult weather conditions expected on stage 20 and landslides noticed, the course has been modified. After taking off from Albertville, the race will use the N90 road to head directly to Moutiers to reach the planned route at the N90-D915 roundabout 36km from the finish. The start will be given in Albertville at 14.30 for a total distance of 59km. The KOM prize at the finish in Val Thorens remains.

Tour de France stage 20

The new stage 20 map

Stage 20 profile

The new stage 20 profile

Tour de France stage 19 team reports

Here's the post from new GC leader Egan Bernal's Team INEOS:

Egan Bernal powered into the Tour de France yellow jersey after a memorable 19th stage.

Egan Bernal

Egan Bernal is in yellow. Sirotti photo

The Colombian accelerated clear of his rivals on the Tour’s highest climb – the Col de l’Iseran – cresting the summit first and plunging on to the descent.

Unknown to the riders, the combination of a flash snow storm and a landslide made the roads up ahead impassable. A quick decision from the race organisers saw the stage neutralised, before eventually being cancelled on grounds of rider safety.

As the riders pulled up in Val d’Isere, the decision was made to take the general classification times from the top of the Iseran. With his eight-second time bonus applied, Bernal moves into a 48-second overall lead, pulling on the yellow jersey in only his second ever Grand Tour.

Bernal’s attack came off the back of an initial acceleration from Geraint Thomas. The Welshman was hauled back by his rivals, and was able to sit in as Bernal opened out his advantage. Thomas now sits third overall, 1:16 back on his team-mate, with Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) holding on to second. The yellow jersey was distanced on the climb, but remains in the podium mix heading into the final day in the mountains.

The team worked hard to set up the move, with Jonathan Castroviejo putting in another big shift setting the tempo in the lead-up to the climb. Dylan van Baarle again made the break, before dropping back to ride on the front, providing the launchpad for our dual attacks.

Egan Bernal:
"To be honest, I didn’t know what was happening. I’ve been told in the radio that the race was finished and I said ‘no I want to keep going’. There were talking to me in English and I was not sure. Only after I stopped and my director told me that I was in yellow, I felt relieved.

"It’s incredible. I can’t believe it. I want to ride full gas tomorrow and then arrive to Paris and once I cross the line, I’ll start believing this is true. There’s one hard stage remaining. It’s a short one. I’ll give it all on the road. To become the first Colombian winner of the Tour de France would be amazing."

Geraint Thomas:
"If was a funny one because if we’d known [about the cancellation] beforehand it would have been more of a race to the top of that last climb. But it’s one of those things. It’s out of everyone’s control.

"It’s all ifs and buts. The main thing is that we’ve got the jersey in the team now and we’re in a great position. We just have to go in there and finish the job off tomorrow now.

"Going into the last stage Egan’s in yellow. The main thing is he finishes the job. For sure he’ll have a decent advantage over everyone else. I fully support him now. He’s been incredible from the start and he’s a phenomenal talent."

Sir Dave Brailsford:
"First and foremost there’s obviously been a landslide – quite a considerable one. You’ve got to make sure everyone is alright. There’s bike racing and then there’s the health and safety of everyone. I just hope everyone is alright.

"Fortune favours the brave at the end of the day. As we said this morning we were going to take it on. We’ve maybe not been the strongest that we’ve been all race, but today was the day. We thought if there was anywhere that we could make the difference it was on the Iseran. It was going to be hard to get there and I actually thought the guys rode really well. From Dylan getting in the break, to Castro and the guys – with Wout pushing the tempo at the bottom. We executed a plan, with G going first, Egan went over the top. Who knows what would have happened after that. It was nice to get to the top of the Iseran in that situation which is what we were hoping for.

"Obviously there’s quite a lot of downhill and another climb to come. But we don’t control the weather or the circumstances."

Former GC leader Julian Alaphilippe's Deceuninck-Quick Step team had this to say about the stage:

Stage 19 will definitely go down in the history of the Tour de France, after a hail storm and severe mudslides prompted the organisers to stop it prematurely, more than 30 kilometers from the finish in Tignes. At that point, the race was in full swing, with Julian Alaphilippe frantically chasing the riders at the front after being distanced with five kilometers to go to the top of the excruciating climb first used in Le Tour more than eight decades ago.

A brutal pace as soon as the race exited the neutralised zone splintered the peloton, leaving around 30 men in pursuit of the 24 escapees, which Kasper Asgreen made sure of not giving too much leeway. At the bottom of Iseran, other teams took over and set a relentless tempo which nullified the break and reduced the yellow jersey group to eight riders. An attack of Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) soon came and the Colombian distanced all his opponents, going first over the top of the ascent.

Despite being gapped, Julian Alaphilippe put in an astonishing effort to limit the damage, stomping on the pedals and emptying himself on the double-digit gradients on his way to the summit (2770 meters), which he crested two minutes behind the leader. Immediately, he started a mad pursuit on the descent, cutting the deficit by 15 seconds and putting another ride that will long live in memory, when news emerged from the race organisers that a hail storm prompted them to cut the stage.

Julian Alaphilippe

Bravo Julian.

After 14 memorable days (which brought also two emphatic stage victories) in the iconic maillot jaune – a record for a Frenchman at a single edition in the last 34 years – Julian had to concede the overall lead, with the official timing being taken at the top of the Iseran; this means that Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s rider, by far the main story of this year’s race, which he had shaped over the past weeks, sits now in second place, less than a minute behind the new leader.

Sports director Tom Steels took us through those hectic final kilometers: “We knew it was going to be a tough day, but it turned out to be also an unusual one. On the descent, when Julian was going full gas, they told us to stop racing and I had to repeat it several times to Julian in the radio. We realised we had lost the yellow jersey, but it’s a pity it was in such a strange way, just as it’s a pity that they had to take this decision after what has been a great Tour. Anyway, it was a wise decision for the safety of the riders, you could see that from what was happening down the road. Despite what happened, we can be proud of our race! The entire team fought hard, Julian gave everything and was a tremendous animator, and I’m sure people will remember this edition more for him than for that happened today.”

GC 5th place Emanuel Buchmann's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this stage 19 report:

Above 2,000m, the human body starts to experience the effects of high altitude: there is less oxygen in the air and the lungs have to work much harder to do what they do normally at sea level. When you’re riding in the hardest cycling event in the world, this amplifies the physical effects even more, while the thinner air can make the weather more unpredictable.

Today, the profile on stage 19 had planned to go above this 2,000m altitude twice – first on the magnificent Col de l’Iseran at an incredible 2,770m and then at the 2,089m summit of the Montée de Tignes for the finale. The day was shorter than previous stages, at 126.5km, but the race organisers had squeezed five categorised climbs into the day. There was little doubt that the GC standings would look very different when the dust settled after today’s stage – but nobody knew just how the day was going to unfold.

With comparatively little distance on which to make an impact, the break went on the attack as soon as they could, a group forming instantly that only grew as the stage went on, with Patrick Konrad making his way up the road to join them. In spite of their size and ambition, the peloton was keeping the 28-man break on a short piece of elastic – the lead never going much beyond one minute, and they were ready to pull them back in at a moment’s notice.

Surrounded by BORA-hansgrohe jerseys, Emanuel Buchmann was well-protected, teammate Gregor Mühlberger sticking close to the German rider again after his strong efforts on yesterday’s stage, and Marcus Burghardt riding hard with him as well. The break started to fall apart on the steep slopes of the Col de l’Iseran and its average gradient of 7.5%, with Patrick dropping off the back here, only for the strong GC group to sweep past the break shortly after. This tough climb was where the fireworks really started to go off, the yellow jersey being dropped and the overall contenders clearly suffering. Emanuel was riding well and stuck with a group of his rivals – the only rider who showed little sign of the hard efforts having an impact.

Summiting the highest point of this year’s Tour de France, it was downhill to the foot of the next climb which, in spite of being first category, looked tiny in comparison to the day’s Hors Catégorie ascent. However, as the riders made their down the slopes of the Iseran towards Val d’Isère, reports came in of a flash hailstorm, with hail on the ground and a landslide on the route ahead. With the roads impassable and the race too treacherous to continue, the stage was cancelled and the GC times were taken from the top of the HC climb at the 90km point, a decision that was supported by the BORA-hansgrohe team given the seriousness of the conditions. Emanuel finished the day fifth in the GC after a day that will be remembered in Tour de France history.

Emanuel Buchmann

Emanuel Buchmann before the start of stage seven. Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line"
"It was a strange situation and one I had never encountered before, to be told on race radio to stop. Initially, there was a bit of disbelief in my group but then we talked about it, realised we all had the same information, so we stopped. I think it was obvious to everybody that it wasn't possible to ride through the hail and mud. I was feeling very well today and maybe in the final climb there could have a possibility for me but we can't change the situation. Given this, the race will come down to what happens tomorrow. I'm still confident, I feel strong and I'd like to thank Gregor for his help today. He was strong and managed to hold on with me for a long time. It's important to be fully focused tomorrow. I think that some of the contenders that are a bit further down the GC now will already give it a shot in the first climb. There will be nothing to lose for them so it will be all in. If I have the legs, I will also try to attack because there is nothing any longer that holds you back. It will be full-on tomorrow!" – Emanuel Buchmann

"In my view, the Tour de France organisers took the correct decision in stopping the race. Obviously, it isn't an easy decision to take, but the health and safety of the riders should be the top priority. We don't know whether time bonuses will be awarded but I think they shouldn't because there wasn't a sprint at the finish. In what regards the race, Emanuel was strong today, and although he couldn't follow Bernal's attack, he was riding confidently in the select group with Thomas. Gregor should also be praised for the huge effort he put in today, staying for nearly all the climb with Emanuel and closing the gap when Thomas first attacked. Obviously, it was a stage finish nobody expected but it is what it is. We are still in a good position and there is no doubt, tomorrow we will witness the big showdown." – Ralph Denk, Team Manager 

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