French hopes of celebrating a long-awaited home Tour de France winner could be over after Egan Bernal took the yellow jersey when stage 19 was bizarrely ended prematurely on Friday due to poor weather in the Alps.
Julian Alaphilippe started out on Friday with a 90-second advantage, but the longtime leader's bid to become the first French winner of the race in 34 years appears to have been shattered by a combination of strong climbing from Bernal and dangerous conditions.
The decision was taken to neutralize the stage for safety reasons with hail falling heavily and rubble in a wet, icy road on the descent of the Col de l'Iseran, where Bernal reached the summit in front.
Little did the Team INEOS rider know that put him in pole position to take the top step of the podium for the first time in Paris on Sunday, as times were taken at the top of Col de l'Iseran — although no stage winner was declared.
Race organizers were yet to confirm the new general classification standings, but stated that Bernal would be presented with the yellow jersey in Tignes.
Alaphilippe, who would have been hopeful of clawing back time on the descent, looked crestfallen when racing was ended with around 20 miles to go in the 79-mile route from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Tignes.
Colombian Bernal's teammate and defending Tour champion Geraint Thomas was unofficially in third place, 18 seconds behind Alaphilippe, heading into the final competitive stage on Saturday.
Riders were invited to gather in a tunnel at Val d'Isere to shield from the freak weather conditions before heading for an overnight stay in Tignes.
It was a grim day for the host nation as a tearful Thibaut Pinot abandoned early in the day due to a left thigh injury.
An 81-mile ride from Albertville to Val Thorens on Saturday, when Bernal can get the job done — weather permitting.
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