The violent weather that forced an early stoppage of Friday’s Stage 19 of the Tour de France has also forced organizers to re-route and shorten Stage 20, the last chance for anyone to shake up the standings.
Colombian rider Egan Bernal, who took the yellow jersey Friday in addition to his firm grip on the white jersey as the Tour’s best young rider, will have an easier-than-expected task Saturday, with only one climb on a route of 59.5 kilometers (37 miles). The day’s racing was originally scheduled to be more than twice that far at 130 kilometers (81 miles), with multiple opportunities for the rest of the tightly packed group at the top of the overall standings to attack.
The good news for France is that Julien Alaphilippe, who was in tears yesterday after losing his yellow jersey in the midst of a descent that played to his strengths as a technical rider, now has more of a chance to remain on the podium. Alaphilippe’s demotion was one of two sad events for the host nation on Friday — contender Thibaut Pinot withdrew with a thigh injury.
But the remaining climb is still a difficult beyond-category trek to Val Thorens. Cyclists will spend 33.4 kilometers on an average grade of 5.4% on the way to a height of 2,365 meters (7,759 feet).
TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings
And the top five riders all have a legitimate shot at the podium, if not the win. Alaphilippe, who was expected to give up the yellow jersey when the Tour hit the mountains but climbed better than expected, is 45 seconds behind Bernal. Defending champion Geraint Thomas (Great Britain) is next at 1:11 behind, with Dutch rider Steven Kruijswijk and German rider Emanuel Buchman also within two minutes of the lead and 45 seconds of the podium.
Sunday’s final stage is traditionally a ceremonial ride to Paris in which no one attacks the yellow jersey.
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