• Egan Bernal sheds Simon Yates on the climb of the Col de L'Iseran (Getty)Source: Getty
In bizarre scenes, Stage 19 of the Tour de France was prematurely halted as the riders descended the Col de L'Iseran, with Egan Bernal off solo in the lead of the race.
By
Cycling Central

27 Jul 2019 - 1:52 AM  UPDATED 27 Jul 2019 - 6:15 AM

Landslides on the descent from the Col de L'Iseran led to mud, ice and water all over a significant section of road  near the stage finish. Race organisers made the decision to halt the race with the finish relocated to the top of the Col de L'Iseran. 

Egan Bernal was in the lead solo at that point, having dropped his competitors on the brutal ascent of the Col de L'Iseran, the highest point in this year's edition of the race.

With Bernal and the main GC contenders on the descent, race radio announced that the time gaps for the GC would be assessed atop the Col de L'Iseran.

"To be honest, I didn’t know what was happening," said Bernal after the stage. "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."

Bernal takes yellow on a day the elements halted the Tour de France
The 19th stage of the Tour de France was expected to be a significant one. It turned into something unprecedented in the 116 year history of the race.

Bernal broke down during his TV interview, looking every inch the 22-year-old youngster experiencing the emotion of his first appearance in the famous maillot jaune as the leader of the Tour de France.

"It’s incredible," said Bernal. "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."

With just 126.5 kilometres scheduled to race over the high altitude alpine climbs, the action got underway quickly. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida), Pello Bilbao (Astana), Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates), Jesus Herrada (Cofidis) jumped away to an early advantage, but plenty of teams were still keen to make the move and battled behind.

Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) appeared behind the peloton, seeking assistance from the race doctor with some strapping on his knee. A few hurried attempts to fix what was ailing the French star failed and the fifth-placed rider in the Tour de France pulled out of the race, overcome with emotion. 

Thibaut Pinot struggles before abandoning the Tour

A much larger split out of the peloton joined the four original breakaway riders with dangerous GC riders Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) jumping into the move.

With Uran the closest at just over five and a half minutes behind the yellow jersey, the peloton kept a tight hold on the leash, the breakaway never gaining more than two minutes. 

The race ignited on the lower slopes of the Col de L'Iseran, with Team Ineos setting a fierce tempo that evaporated the breakaway's advantage. Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) was the first to launch an attack, with Bernal the 1-2 punch to Thomas' surge, going clear with his first attack over the top. 

Bernal's decisive attack

The Colombian bridged over to the breakaway and kept setting his blistering tempo, shedding riders one by one until he dropped Simon Yates in the final few hundred metres before cresting the summit. 

Bernal immediately went into descent mode, but it proved to be for nothing as the race was called off with riders most of the way down the descent. A few argued back when told the decision on the road, but the call was final and the race was finished.