Hail, snow and landslides forced stage 19 of the Tour de France to be abandoned before the final climb into Tignes.
Commissaires ruled that times would be taken at the top of the Col de l’Iseran – which gave Egan Bernal both the stage victory and the yellow jersey as he had attacked on the penultimate climb of the 126.5km stage from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.
Riders were told to continue the descent off the Iseran as far as Val-d’Isere, where team cars were waiting for them.
It was yet another dramatic twist in the Tour de France, described as the most exciting edition since 1989, and could well be a decisive one.
Bernal now needs only to survive one final mountain stage on Saturday before potentially celebrating his first Grand Tour victory in Paris a day later.
The 22-year-old would be the first Colombian to win the Tour, and the youngest to succeed in the post-war era.
The neutralisation came as a huge blow to Geraint Thomas’ hopes of defending his title. The Welshman may have hoped to bridge the gap to his team-mate in the final 30 kilometres but was denied that opportunity.
Thomas was seen talking to Tour director Christian Prudhomme in Val-d’Isere, but the Frenchman could only gesticulate that there was nothing he could do given the conditions of the road up ahead, where diggers and ploughs were working to clear a path.
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Earlier in the day, Thibaut Pinot’s dream of becoming the first French winner of the Tour de France for 34 years ended after the Groupama-FDJ rider was forced to abandon early on stage 19 to Tignes.
French newspaper L’Equipe later reported Pinot had suffered a muscle tear in his left thigh.
In a tweet, Groupama-FDJ confirmed it was a muscular injury for Pinot.
“Thibaut suffers from a muscular lesion on his left thigh. Yesterday, he finished stage 18 with a sharp pain and had troubles walking in the evening.
“His condition didn’t improve today, he just withdrew from the #TDF2019”