Egan Bernal in Yellow as Freak Hailstorm shortens decisive Tour de France stage 

Egan Bernal in Yellow tonight after huge attack on the Col de l'Iseran as Pinot abandoned race with knee injury

Disaster struck the decisive Tour de France stage. On the second climb of the day, Thibaut Pinot who injured a muscle in his knee abandoned the race in tears.

On the penultimate climb up the highest road pass in the Alps, the 2,770m high Col de l'Iseran, Egan Bernal attacked the Yellow Jersey group with 5 kms to go.

By the top the Colombian was virtually 33 secs (2m 3secs) ahead of Yellow Jersey wearer Julian Alaphilippe.

The riders started to descend when news came through that the final climb up to Tignes had been closed due to a freakish hailstorm and landslide.

Egan Bernal in Yellow as Freak Hailstorm shortens decisive Tour de France stage

The area suffered a horrendous downpour that saw over 3 feet of hail and snow lying on the ground.

There were scenes of anger, shock and disappointment from all the riders when the stage was cancelled.

So much hail fell a landslide closed the road

The unprecedented stoppage sent a shockwave through what has been the most exciting Tour in decades. Although Bernal was all smiles as he stepped into an Ineos car, other contenders including Alaphlippe were clearly disappointed. The French rider waved his left arm in disdain and swerved back and forth across the road. Colombian rider Rigoberto Uran looked angry.

As a result, times were taken from the top of the Col de l'Iseran which put Egan Bernal in Yellow 48 seconds ahead of Alaphillpe and 1m 16s back to Thomas.

But Marc Madiot, the manager of the Groupama-FDJ team, applauded the stoppage ”Safety is the first priority and the decision to stop the stage seemed to be the only decision to make,” he said. ”Imagine that the race had a continued and a rider had plunged into a ravine.”

Alaphilippe said afterwards “I don’t think it is possible, I have been beaten by something that is stronger than me, that’s how it is,” he told France 2 after stage 19 was cut short because of a hailstorm which left the road to Tignes temporarily impassable."

“I expected it,” said Alaphilippe who is now 48 seconds off the lead. “I gave the maximum. I have no regrets.”

“It was a dream to wear it, I carried this dream longer than I had hoped and I beat myself up every day to keep a hold of it. From the moment I took hold of the yellow jersey I dreamed but I never thought I could win the Tour.”

The 22-year-old now looks the favourite to come through Saturday’s stage 20 and claim his first Tour win.

Bernal's family and girlfriend were waiting for him at the official presentation, where he strode towards the podium with calm dignity as many of his entourage cried openly.

"I was going at great speed when they told me to stop and I said no way, not now, please," he said, "But they told me it was okay, I was the new leader, and then I accepted it and pulled over," said the youngest man on the race. We aren't in Paris yet. But I feel like crying. Tomorrow will be hard and I will do everything to defend this," he added.

Alaphilippe, though, can still dream of making the podium on the Champs-Elysees on Sunday.

Final Mountain Stage Slashed to just 37 miles!

Due to damage from the storm, two of the three climbs from Saturday's Stage 20 have been eliminated, reducing the day's course from 81 to just 37 miles. 

Stage 20 the final Mountain stage was to be another difficult but breathtakingly beautiful day in the Alps with the climb of the Cormet de Roselend and Cote de Longefoy and a finish atop Val Thorens.

The new route retains the final 33.5km climb to Val Thorens with the climbs of the Cormet de Roselend and Cote de Longefoy removed. The penultimate stage will begin in Albertville at 14:30CET with a route less than half the original distance. It will still finish atop Val Thorens, a 33.5km ascent averaging 5.5 per cent that climbs to 2365m in altitude.

The abbreviation not only shortens the action for the overall contenders.

Frenchman Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) leads the mountains classification with 86 points ahead of Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) with 74. 40 points will be available on top of the the final climb.

Stage 20 is the penultimate stage of the race before it concludes in Paris on Sunday, but it is typically the last stage in which any change in the overall standing can be made.

VIDEO: 2019 Tour de France Stage 19 Highlights

2019 Tour de France GC after Stage 19 

1 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Ineos 78:00:42 
2 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:00:48 
3 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Ineos 0:01:16 
4 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma 0:01:28 
5 Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:01:55 
6 Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar Team 0:04:35 
7 Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First 0:05:14 
8 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:05:17 
9 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:06:25 
10 Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo 0:06:28  

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