By Mark Puleo, AccuWeather staff writer
July 27, 2019, 6:42:45 AM EDT
France’s Julian Alaphilippe wearing the overall leader’s yellow jersey stands next to team director car during the nineteenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 126,5 kilometers (78,60 miles) with start in Saint Jean De Maurienne and finish in Tignes, France, Friday, July 26, 2019. Tour de France organizers stopped Stage 19 of the race because of a hail storm as Julien Alaphilippe lost his yellow jersey to Egan Bernal. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
With less than 30 kilometers to go in a thrilling stage of the Tour de France, organizers were forced to cancel the rest of the 19th stage of racing due to heavy hail accumulations — or, as one racing team put it, “crazy weather conditions.” The rare stoppage was a blow to fans of the event but the decision was made for the safety of the riders.
The cyclists were pushing through the French Alps in Friday’s 19th stage when a hailstorm battered the mountain region. There are two days of racing left in the 2019 edition of the Tour, with the athletes set to close out the final stage on Sunday, July 28, in Paris Champs-Élysées.
“The day’s course has been called due to adverse weather conditions,” Tour de France officials announced. Results for Friday’s stage will be based on the times that the riders passed over the Col de l’lseran, officials said.
A worker uses a snow shovel to clean the road of the nineteenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 126,5 kilometers (78,60 miles) with start in Saint Jean De Maurienne and finish in Tignes, France, Friday, July 26, 2019. Tour de France organizers stopped Stage 19 of the race because of a hail storm as Julien Alaphilippe lost his yellow jersey to Egan Bernal. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
As AccuWeather Meteorologist Brian Lada noted, the leaders of the race had just begun to descend the Col de l’lseran, which is the day’s biggest mountain.
“A hailstorm hit the Alps on Friday, blanketing part of the course that the riders had yet to reach,” Lada said. “The roads and mountainside turned white due to all the hail that fell. Crews did not have enough time to clear the course before the leaders arrived, so they decided to end the stage early.”
Aerial videos from the scene depicted trucks working to plow the course in preparation for the riders, but the hail proved too abundant — and dangerous. There were also reports of landslides in the area.
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Following Friday’s cancellation, race officials announced that Saturday’s stage, the last stage spent in the Alps, would be shortened by 44 miles (71 km) due to landslides noticed on the mountains and the threat for showers and thunderstorms to be in the area yet again. The stage will skip the climb up Cormet de Roselend.
Fans expressed frustrations on social media with race officials’ decision to cancel Friday’s leg of the race, particularly fans of cyclists who hadn’t executed aggressive race moves yet.
The decision to cancel the Friday’s stage could potentially play a role in the final results of the event. With just two days remaining, an altered leader board will change how teams strategize going into the decisive weekend.
New leader Egan Bernal took the famed yellow jersey from Julian Alaphilippe thanks to his 2 minute, 7 second lead at the time of cancellation. Alaphilippe had a 1 minute, 30 second lead going into Friday’s stage but lost his yellow jersey after holding onto it for 14 days. Bernal is now in position to become the first Colombian to win the famed race.
“This is a big shakeup in the Tour de France so close to the end of the tour,” Lada said. “Because of this, there is a new leader in the overall standings of the Tour de France.”