Freak Violent Hailstorm and Landslide in French Alps STOPS Tour de France Stage 19

CycleBrains | CycleCycle
tour de france, cancelled, snowstorm, hailstorm, landslide
Summer turned to winter in a matter of minutes. Credit: Twitter

A violent hailstorm threw the Tour de France into chaos on Friday, forcing organizers to cut short stage 19 in the high Alps because riders were unknowingly hurtling downhill toward a road that had suddenly become covered with a layer of hail and been cut in half by a rockslide. The sudden storm turned summer into almost winter in just minutes, with a dusting of white covering what had been clear, dry roads.

While much of France is experiencing record-breaking high temperatures, the world’s most prestigious cycling event was neutralized with riders approaching the Col d’Iseran — a mountain pass located more than 9,000 feet. Tour organizers said the course was too slick and flooded for riders to complete the course safely. Concerned for riders’ safety on mountain roads that can be dangerous at the best of times, race organizers made an on-the-spot and extremely rare decision that the stage couldn’t continue.

“I don’t really know what happened. I was speeding, attacking, and everything was going well and then they told me to stop. I didn’t want to stop,” Bernal said through a translator on French television. “When they told me that I was the race leader and I had the yellow jersey, I couldn’t believe it and I still can’t believe it.”

The halting of the race was especially dramatic as the battle for the race leader’s yellow jersey was just heating up with the Colombian Egan Bernal attacking his rivals on the long steep climb of the Col de L’Iseran. Bernal was speeding down hairpins on the other side, with Alaphilippe hot on his trail, hoping to save his race lead, when they received the order to stop racing. Organizers said the hair-raising speeds of Bernal, Alaphilippe and other riders on the downhill from the Iseran in part prompted the decision to stop the race there and then.

“We could see that they were taking risks and we knew that they couldn’t go much further,” he said. “The only thing that counts is the riders’ health and safety. It was impossible.”

Organizers scrambled to deal with the disarray and riders clambered off their bikes, not immediately sure what was going on. Exceptionally, there was no winner of Stage 19, because no one had reached the finish. Bernal was in the lead when the stage was neutralized, and with the time he had in hand at that point he became the new leader of the Tour with two stages to go to the race’s conclusion in Paris on Sunday.

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