Race organisers of the 2019 Tour de France have dramatically reduced the penultimate stage of the race to just 59km from 130km. Stage 20
Saturday’s stage is the final mountain stage before the traditionally processional Stage 21 on Sunday.
The decision was made after Stage 19 was abandoned on Friday due to dangerous conditions following a hailstorm. Landslides and flooding made it impossible for riders to make it across the descent.
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Stage 20 will start Albertville at 14:30 CET or 13:30 SAST 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.
Riders will now race from he N90 from Albertville to Moutiers where it will rejoin the original route at the N90-D915, about 36km from the finish.
Short stages aren’t unusual on the tour, but the impact of the truncated route will have a wide-reaching impact.
“Following difficult weather and landslides forecast for tomorrow, the route of the 20th stage of the Tour de France has been modified,” said a statement by the organisers.
The decision means that the first two climbs have been cut from the schedule and the peloton goes straight to Val Torrens.
“Three mudslides occurred in the descent at Cormet de Roselend,” Tour Director Christian Prudhomme told AFP in reference to the opening section of Saturday’s planned route.
“One of them has damaged the road conditions and we cannot go there. It’s the only possible decision.”
He added: “Fresh mudslides are possible – we must take the direct route.”
This throws yet another spanner into the works. The shortening for the stage cuts out two climbs which will impact the mountains classification contenders.
Stage 19 was abandoned early due to a hailstorm. There was no official stage winner, but Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe surrendered the yellow jersey to Egan Bernal.
The Frenchman, currently 48 seconds off the overall lead, has ruled out the potential of a dream victory. Alaphilippe wore the yellow jersey for 14 days, carrying the hopes of a public eager to see a French winner for the first time since Bernard Hinault in 1985 and defying pundits who felt he would wilt in the Pyrenees.
Stage 20, traditionally anyway, is the last day for riders to mount a challenge as the road to Paris is traditionally seen as a procession rather than an all guns blazing attempt to wrestle the yellow from the leader.
But it’s been a crazy tour. And who knows what crazy things might happen.
Tour de France 2019: Shortened route
Tour de France 2019: Stage 20 – original route
Tour de France 2019: Top ten time gaps after Stage 19
|2||Julian Alaphilippe||+ 00h 00′ 48”|
|3||Geraint Thomas||+ 00h 01′ 16”|
|4||Steven Kruijswijk||+ 00h 01′ 28”|
|5||Emanuel Buchmann||+ 00h 01′ 55”|
|6||Mikel Landa Meana||+ 00h 04′ 35”|
|7||Rigoberto Uran||+ 00h 05′ 14”|
|8||Nairo Quintana||+ 00h 05′ 17”|
|9||Alejandro Valverde||+ 00h 06′ 25”|
|10||Richie Porte||+ 00h 06′ 28”|
Additional reporting by AFP.