Bernal leads the Tour de France after stage 19 cut short: Daily News Digest

by Dane Cash

Welcome to your Daily News Digest. Here’s what’s happening today:

Stage 19 of the Tour de France is cut short due to extreme weather, Egan Bernal is the new race leader, Thibaut Pinot abandons the Tour. Those stories and more in today’s Daily News Digest.

Story of the Day: Bernal in yellow after stage 19 cut short

Egan Bernal (Ineos) is the new race leader of the Tour de France after a wild stage 19 that was shortened due to extreme weather conditions.

Snow and ice on the roads in between the Col de l’Iseran and the final climb to Tignes led to a mid-race neutralization of the stage. Organizers made the call to register the time gaps going over the Iseran as the final results of the day. Egan Bernal, who had attacked out of the yellow jersey group on the climb, led over the ascent with enough of a gap to Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) to be the provisional race leader.

Minutes later, he became the official race leader as organizers cut the stage short, with heavy precipitation and even a landslide making the roads ahead impassable. No one was awarded the stage victory.

Bernal now leads the Tour de France with Alaphilippe in second and defending overall champion Geraint Thomas (Ineos) in third.

The 126.5-kilometer stage from Saint-Jean-de-Marienne saw drama within the first half hour as Thibaut Pinot was dropped from the peloton, clearly in pain due to a then-unknown leg issue. He ultimately pulled out of the race, with his Groupama-FDJ team saying that he had suffered a thigh injury.

Up the road, multiple groups joined together to form the day’s breakaway on the early climbs, with big names like Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), and Rigoberto Urán (EF Education First) in the mix. The move was kept on a relatively short leash as the race approached the Col de l’Iseran.

Ineos set a hard tempo going up the climb, the highest in this year’s Tour, isolating race leader Alaphilippe and whittling the group down to less than 20 riders. With around seven kilometers to go on the climb, Thomas kicked off the action with an attack out of the group. The move put Alaphilippe under pressure but Thomas was unable to open up much of gap.

Egan Bernal on the attack on the Col de l’Iseran. Photo: Peter de Voecht/PN/Cor Vos © 2019

Once Thomas was brought back, however, his teammate Bernal fired off the front with no one able to answer. As the Colombian soared up the road, catching the remnants of the break, Alaphilippe lost touch with the chase group.

Before long, Bernal was leading the race alongside Yates, with GC contenders Thomas, Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Mikel Landa (Movistar), Nibali, and Urán in a small group of pursuers, and Alaphilippe on his own further back.

Bernal left Yates behind and led over the summit of the Iseran and then began the descent, with Yates soon rejoining him.

Meanwhile, race organizers were scrambling to figure out how to handle the suddenly dangerous conditions ahead. Although the course was dry where the riders were, just a few kilometers farther, heavy precipitation had left the road covered in water and ice.

Organizers ultimately decided to neutralize the stage, drawing furious reactions from some of the riders on the road, who were unaware of just how bad things were only a short distance ahead. For several minutes, most of the GC contenders continued riding.

As the word of the decision gradually spread through the race, the riders finally slowed to a halt, and organizers announced that riders’ times at the top of the Col d’Iseran would be registered as the day’s results, although no one was awarded the stage victory.

Bernal will wear yellow into Saturday’s stage 20 with Alaphilippe now 48 seconds back in second overall and Thomas in third, 1:16 down.

Moving Pictures

Julian Alaphilippe may have lost the yellow jersey on stage 19, but he certainly made the most of his time in it.

Speaking of making the most of your time at the Tour de France, these fans seem to know how it’s done.

Race Radio

Pinot abandons the Tour

Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) abandoned the Tour de France some 40 kilometers into stage 19, with his team saying after the stage that the Frenchman was suffering “a muscular lesion on his left thigh.”

Pinot was sitting fifth overall and was one of the top favorites to win the overall race at the start of the stage, but half an hour into the day he dropped off the back of the peloton and consulted with the medical car. The race doctor worked to replace a wrap on his thigh, but the pain continued.

Multiple Groupama-FDJ teammates rode past their team leader, patting him on the back but not stopping, apparently already aware of the issue. Pinot spent a few moments with his team car, tried to push on, and then climbed off his bike in tears.

The abandonment marks the second straight year Pinot has pulled out of the biggest target of his season after looking strong for nearly the full three weeks. He abandoned last year’s Giro d’Italia after finishing the penultimate stage, having started the day in third overall.

Australian road nationals return to Wednesday-Sunday format

The Australian road championships will run on a Wednesday-to-Sunday schedule again in 2020 after one year trying a Friday-to-Tuesday format.

Cycling Australia has announced the schedule for the five-day Federation University Road National Championships, which will start on Wednesday, January 8 with time trials.

Coming Up at the Tour

The Tour de France takes on its final day in the mountains on Saturday’s stage 20.

The penultimate stage of the 2019 Tour de France has been shortened to just 59km, race organizer ASO announced Friday evening.

The stage will still start in Albertville and finish in Val Thorens, as planned, but two climbs will be cut out of the middle of the stage. The category 1 Cormet de Roseland and category 2 Côte de Longefoy have been pulled from the race.

In case you missed it …

Feature Image: Christian Prudhomme explains the cancellation of Tour de France stage 19 to new race leader Egan Bernal. Photo: Peter de Voecht/PN/Cor Vos © 2019

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