France is currently enduring a record-breaking heatwave, but that’s not what caused the premature end of stage 19 at the Tour de France on Friday.
It was hail, snow and a landslide.
How could this be happening at the same time most of France is above the boiling point? Stage 19 takes place on Col de l'Iseran, the highest paved pass in the Alps at 9,000 feet above sea level.
Being that high up can lead to wintry weather even during the summer months (which are the only months the pass is even accessible), and that’s what led to the stoppage of the stage. On the descent, snow had fallen and there were violent hail storms.
Riding in those conditions is a no-go, but it was even more important to stop the race since the stage includes a descent down the mountain. Even the most experienced cyclists in the world couldn’t handle a steep descent fraught with snow and ice. Here’s an aerial view of the route when the race was halted.
It’s hard to imagine driving on roads like that, let alone cycling on them. And some of them weren’t even drivable because they were literally not there anymore. The weather had caused landslides that overtook some of the route.
With conditions like, that, rest of the stage will obviously not be ridden. But that’s the worst part for some of the cyclists. There were just 18 miles left for the lead racer when the stage was halted. Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe had the yellow jersey when the stage began, but fell back as the stage went on. According to CNN, he had hoped to regain it during the descent, but he won’t have that chance. Alaphilippe is trying to become the first Frenchman to win the Tour de France since 1985.
Times for stage 19 were taken at the top of Col de l'Iseran. And since the rest of the stage won’t be raced, cyclists were taken by car to Tignes, the end point of stage 19.
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