Just hours after an unexpected mid-summer hailstorm and landslide 20 kilometres from the finish caused the abrupt halt of Stage 19, Tour de France officials announced that Stage 20 would be shortened from 130 kilometres to just 59.
This now leaves only the final 33km hors catégorie climb to the Val Thorens summit finish for new race leader Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) and any general classification rivals still keen on denying the Colombian from capturing his inaugural Grand Tour win.
With the 22-year-old Bernal clad in the white best young rider jersey already en route to most assuredly lifting yellow off Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Friday's Stage 19 was stopped with 38km remaining forcing all riders off the road with no winner being declared on the day.
The full statement released by the Tour de France reads: “Due to the difficult weather conditions expected tomorrow and landslide warnings, the course of the 20th stage of the Tour de France will be modified.
“After setting off from Albertville, the stage will go on the N90 road to head directly to Moutiers and then go on to the initial end of stage at the N90 – D915 roundabout, 36kms from the finish.
“All the initial sporting points will be withdrawn except the KOM standings at the finish in Val Thorens.”
SBS TV Stage 20 coverage begins at 8:30pm AEST with a replay of Stage 19 before our live broadcast at 10pm. The shortened racing will start at 10:30pm AEST on SBS, SBS OnDemand and the SKODA Tour Tracker.
Thanks in large part to Bernal's punchy acceleration over the Col de l’Iseran with Simon Yates, winner of two stages already, in tow, the recent Paris-Nice and Tour de Suisse winner traded places with Alaphilippe and now takes a 48-second advantage into Saturday's final Alpine stage before the 106th edition of the Tour concludes along the iconic Champs-Élysées in Paris on Sunday.
"It’s incredible. I can’t believe it," said Bernal, pior to the penultimage stage being slashed by 71km. "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."
Bernal's Ineos team-mate and defending race winner Geraint Thomas rounds out the current podium in third, trailing the maillot jaune by 1 minute 16 seconds. With three-time world road race champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) having already secured his record-owning seventh green points jersey, only the mountains classification remains in limbo.
The shortened 20th stage cuts two climbs from the route, both the Cormet Roselend (Cat .1) and Cote du Longefoy (Cat. 2), thus leaving only the final ascent to the summit finish worth 40 points on offer.
Frenchman Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) is currently in polka-dots leading with 86 points, while Belgian Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) is second on classification with 74 followed by Italian Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Merida) with 67.