Chris Froome has described next year's Tour de France route as "brutal" after organisers revealed details of the race on Tuesday.

With five mountain ranges and only one time trial - on the penultimate stage - the course would seem to suit climbers such as French riders Thibaut Pinot and Julian Alaphilippe, as well as Egan Bernal, Froome's Team INEOS colleague and the reigning champion.

Froome, who missed the 2019 Tour having suffered fractures to his femur, elbow and ribs in June, noted how tough the 21-stage course was for 2020 while admitting it should suit most of the challengers for the yellow jersey.

"It's a brutal, brutal course, but good," said four-time Tour de France champion Froome.

"I think it's going to be a really explosive race and very much in favour of the [best climbers of] mountains. But I think that's great, it gives a lot of opportunities for the general classification to be played out.

"That's what everyone wants to see, everyone wants to see a big battle between the rivals.

"For the riders as well, I think it's great because it gives a lot of opportunities to try to make the race and to try to win."

In Froome's absence last year, defending champion Geraint Thomas was expected to be INEOS' lead rider, but it was Bernal who surprisingly emerged to claim a first title.

The team could have three Tour champions on the line at the Grand Depart in Nice next June, yet Froome is more concerned with focusing on his fitness before considering his leadership credentials.

"We've got an amazing line-up, an amazing roster of riders to select from, but nothing is decided yet," Froome said.

"I have obviously to get myself back to that level before even discussing leadership or anything like that.

"At least for now everything is going in the right direction, I'm optimistic."

Cycling's top climbers appeared to receive a major lift after a mountainous route for the 2020 Tour de France was revealed on Tuesday.

Riders will be go through the five mountain ranges of the Alps, Pyrenees, Vosges, Jura and Massif Central after the Grand Depart in Nice on June 27.

They will visit three of France's mountain ranges in the first eight days and will be climbing from as early as day two, with the only time trial coming on the last competitive stage from Lure to La Planche des Belles Filles before the ceremonial ride into Paris.

There will be no return to the Alpe d'Huez or Mont Ventoux, but the Col de la Madeleine and the Grand Colombier will be tackled.

The route should suit Thibaut Pinot and Julian Alaphilippe when they attempt to end a long wait for a French rider to win the most prestigious Grand Tour race, which was won by Egan Bernal this year.

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said: "There are 29 mountains, it will be physically challenging throughout.

"Even the so-called flat stages will be very tough for the pure sprinters. There are traps everywhere along the route."

 

Route for the 2020 Tour de France

June 27 - Stage 1: Nice - Nice (156km)

June 28 - Stage 2: Nice - Nice (187km)

June 29 - Stage 3: Nice - Sisteron (198km)

June 30 - Stage 4: Sisteron - Orcieres-Merlette (157km)

July 1 - Stage 5: Gap - Privas (183km)

July 2 - Stage 6: Le Teil - Mont Aigoual (191km)

July 3 - Stage 7: Millau - Lavaur (168km)

July 4 - Stage 8: Cazeres-sur-Garonne - Loudenvielle (140km)

July 5 - Stage 9: Pau - Laruns (154km)

July 6 - Rest day in Charente-Maritime

July 7 - Stage 10: Ile d'Oleron - Ile de Re (170km)

July 8 - Stage 11: Chatelaillon-Plage - Poitiers (167km)

July 9 - Stage 12: Chauvigny - Sarran (218km)

July 10 - Stage 13: Chatel-Guyon - Puy Mary (191km)

July 11 - Stage 14: Clermont-Ferrand - Lyon (197km)

July 12 - Stage 15: Lyon - Grand Colombier (175km)

July 13 - Rest day in Isere

July 14 - Stage 16: La Tour-du-Pin - Villard-de-Lans (164km)

July 15 - Stage 17: Grenoble - Meribel (168km)

July 16 - Stage 18: Meribel - La Roche-sur-Foron (168km)

July 17 - Stage 19: Bourg-en-Bresse - Champagnole (160km)

July 18 - Stage 20: Lure - La Planche des Belles Filles (36km individual time trial)

July 19 - Stage 21: Mantes-la-Jolie - Paris (122km)

For the second time this year, the dominant Team INEOS are heading into a Grand Tour without their three star riders.

Both Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas sat out the Giro d'Italia, while a broken collarbone saw Egan Bernal denied the opportunity to step up.

Seven-time Grand Tour winner Froome then left Thomas and Bernal in charge for the Tour de France as he missed out with fractures to his right femur, elbow and ribs sustained in training during the Criterium du Dauphine.

But after Bernal claimed his first title in the veteran's absence, the Colombian opted not to enter the Vuelta this year.

Thomas is likewise skipping the race, having finished second in Paris, and Froome is still recovering from his injuries, leaving INEOS light on star power once again.

So who will head the charge for cycling's outstanding outfit? We take a look at the team leaders and the rest of the line-up in Spain.

 

TAO GEOGHEGAN HART

This is a second big opportunity for Geoghegan Hart, who was one of those selected to lead the way for a youthful INEOS team at the Giro.

It was not a particularly successful outing for the team and a large part of that was due to Geoghegan Hart's crash on stage 13 that ruled him out of the race with a broken right clavicle. Co-leader Pavel Sivakov finished ninth in the general classification.

But the Briton – a strong all-rounder – is still just 24, is now 12 months on from his Grand Tour debut at last year's Vuelta, and has strong performances at the Tour of the Alps and Tour de Pologne under his belt.

As Froome and Thomas get on in age, it is time for Geoghegan Hart to stake a serious claim – or risk being left behind by a team that could soon belong to Bernal.

WOUT POELS

Where Geoghegan Hart is still raw, climber Poels provides real experience.

"The opportunity for Tao to learn from Wout as they lead our team is a special one and we have faith that both of them can leave their mark on this Vuelta," lead sport director Nicolas Portal said.

Poels has often played a supporting role in the bigger races during his INEOS career, but his best Grand Tour GC performance came at the Vuelta in 2017, a sixth-place finish. His only stage win at a Grand Tour was in Spain, too, with Vacansoleil in 2011.

The Dutchman has the talent to go on and challenge himself, as well as the experience to assist Geoghegan Hart, depending on how the race pans out for INEOS.

THE SUPPORTING CAST

INEOS hailed a contrast of youth and experience when they named the team and Owain Doull is the one Grand Tour debutant in the line-up, having played a role in four winning squads this year.

At the other end of the scale, the know-how comes in the form of Vasil Kiryienka, Salvatore Puccio and Ian Stannard. Kiryienka is 38 and making his 20th Grand Tour appearance, with the other two regulars in winning teams.

Sebastian Henao has taken on five Giros with relative success and will get a first Vuelta opportunity.

There was one last, late change to the team, meanwhile, as Kenny Elissonde – a former Vuelta stage winner – was replaced by David de la Cruz, who finished seventh in 2016 and 15th last year.

Egan Bernal is still struggling to believe he won the Tour de France after being afforded a hero's welcome in his hometown.

The 22-year-old became the first Colombian to win the most prestigious Grand Tour race last month.

Team INEOS rider Bernal went down as the youngest Tour champion for 110 years following a climbing masterclass in the Alps.

A big crowd packed the streets of Zipaquira on Wednesday to show their appreciation for Bernal, who donned his yellow jersey and rode his bike as he waved to fans who congregated in central square.

He told those who turned out to greet him: "A few years ago if someone had come here and told me that I was going to win the Tour de France, I would not have believed it. So everything that is done with love I think can be achieved.

"I was a child who dreamed of riding a bicycle, of going out to ride with my friends and little by little it became my job, but it was all because of that, because I love to ride a bicycle."

Egan Bernal made Tour de France history on Sunday as he became the first Colombian to win the yellow jersey.

Bernal's victory was effectively sealed on a penultimate stage shortened to 59.5 kilometres due to weather concerns, having moved into the lead when stage 19 was brought to a premature end in the Alps due to a hail storm and severe mudslides on the descent of the Col de l'Iseran.

It marked a bizarre end to a thrilling race, with Bernal able to take in his achievement on the processional final stage to Paris, on which he was congratulated by team-mate and 2018 champion Geraint Thomas as they crossed the line on the Champs-Elysees to seal a one-two finish.

As INEOS celebrates yet another Tour win, we look at some of the best Opta facts from a race that will live long in the memory.

 

BERNAL TRIUMPHS IN TIGHTEST TOUR

- Egan Bernal is the first Colombian rider to win the Tour de France and at 22 years, 6 months and 15 days old, he is the third-youngest winner of the race after Henri Cornet (1904) and Francois Faber (1909).

- With a difference between the winner (Bernal) and third place (Steven Kruijswijk) of 1'33", this is the tightest podium in the history of the Tour de France.

- Bernal is the third Colombian rider to win a Grand Tour after Nairo Quintana (Giro d'Italia 2014 and Vuelta a Espana 2016) and Lucho Herrera (Vuelta a Espana 1987).

- There has been a Colombian rider on the podium in five of the last seven Tour de France editions (Bernal 1st in 2019, Rigoberto Uran 2nd in 2017 and Nairo Quintana 3rd in 2016, 2nd in 2015 and 2nd in 2013).

- Bernal has become the fifth rider to have won both the General Classification and the Young Rider Classification in the same edition of the Tour de France after Laurent Fignon in 1983, Jan Ullrich in 1997, Alberto Contador in 2007 and Andy Schleck in 2010.


INEOS IN CONTROL

- A Team INEOS rider (previously Team Sky) has won in seven of the last eight Tour de France editions (Bradley Wiggins 2012; Chris Froome 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017; Geraint Thomas 2018 and Egan Bernal 2019). No other trade team has won this race with four different riders.

- It is the second time that two riders of Team INEOS have been on the first two positions of the General Classification (Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas). The first time was in 2012 with Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.

- British riders have finished on the podium in six of the last seven Tour de France editions, only failing to do so in 2014.


SUPER SAGAN

- Peter Sagan won the Points Classification for a record seventh time, something that nobody has done before in the Tour de France (Erik Zabel, 6).

- The Slovak has won the Points Classification at the Tour de France in seven of the last eight years (DSQ in 2017).

- Sagan has recorded at least one stage win in six of his last eight Tour de France appearances, only failing to do so in 2014 and 2015.


ALAPHILIPPE EMULATES HINAULT

- Julian Alaphilippe wore the yellow jersey for 14 stages in this year’s Tour de France, it was 34 years since a French rider had done this (Bernard Hinault, 17 stages in 1985).

- Three different French riders (Warren Barguil, 2017; Julian Alaphilippe, 2018 and Romain Bardet, 2019) have won the Mountain Classification of the Tour de France in three consecutive years for first time since it was established in 1933.

- Thibaut Pinot has abandoned the race in four of his seven Tour de France appearances.

- Romain Bardet won the Mountain Classification for the first time after seven Tour de France appearances.

Egan Bernal said he is "the happiest man in the world" after he was crowned the first Colombian Tour de France champion.

Bernal made history on a glorious Sunday evening in Paris, becoming the youngest rider to win the Tour for 110 years at the age of 22.

The Team INEOS rider was congratulated by defending champion and colleague Geraint Thomas as they crossed the line to seal a one-two on the Champs-Elysees, where Caleb Ewan sprinted to a final-stage victory.

Bernal is the third-youngest to win the most prestigious Grand Tour race and embraced his family in emotional scenes before taking to the top step of the podium, watched on by ecstatic Colombians in the French capital.

"I think I should say thank you to all my team, thank you G [Thomas] for the opportunity and all the team for the support and belief in me," said Bernal, who gave an acceptance speech in English, French, Spanish and Italian.

"Today I am the happiest man in the world, I just won the Tour de France and I cannot believe it."

"Today I am the most happy guy in the world. I just won the Tour de France. I can’t believe it" - @Eganbernal pic.twitter.com/XKb8CQq9of

— Team INEOS (@TeamINEOS) July 28, 2019

Bernal stated before taking to the podium: "It's incredible; I don't know what to say. I've won the Tour, but I don't believe it. I need a couple of days to assimilate all this. It's for my family, and I just want to hug them.

"It's a feeling of happiness that I don't know how to describe. This is the first Tour for us Colombians. Many Colombians have tried before; we've had great cyclists in the past.

"But I'm the first one to win the Tour. Colombia deserves it."

Egan Bernal made history by becoming the first Colombian to win the Tour de France in Paris on Sunday.

The 22-year-old all but claimed the title in the ski resort of Val Thorens on Saturday, crossing the line in fourth alongside Geraint Thomas to put Team INEOS on the brink of a one-two.

Bernal completed the formality of becoming the youngest Tour winner for 110 years by finishing the 128-kilometre procession from Rambouillet to the capital after sampling the customary glass of champagne soon after setting off.

Caleb Ewan sprinted to a victory on the Champs-Elysees, having vowed to accomplish that feat when he visited Paris for the first time at the age of 17.

The Australian's rapid final burst on a glorious evening earned him a third stage success of the race ahead of Dylan Groenewegen and Niccolo Bonifazio.

Bernal crossed the line soon after with 2018 champion and colleague Thomas, becoming the only rider to win the Paris-Nice, Tour de Suisse and Tour de France in the same year.

The brilliant Bernal is the third-youngest champion in the most prestigious Grand Tour, having taken the yellow jersey off long-time leader and home hope Julian Alaphilippe in dramatic fashion in the Alps.

Bernal's aggressive climb of the Col de l'Iseran proved to be decisive, with stage 19 cut short on the descent due to hailstorms and mudslides on Friday.

That gave Bernal the lead and he retained it after a penultimate stage to Val Thorens that was shortened due to concerns over the weather, going on to take the title by a margin of 71 seconds over Thomas.

Alaphilippe finished back in fifth in the general classification, with Steven Kruijswijk third and Emanuel Buchmann fourth.

Deceuninck-Quick Step rider Alaphilippe was unable to end the 34-year wait for a home winner of the Tour but was named the most combative rider after spending 14 days in yellow.

 

STAGE RESULT

1. Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) 3:04:08
2. Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma)
3. Niccolo Bonifazio (Total Direct Energie)
4. Maximiliano Richeze (Deceuninck-Quick Step)
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data)

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Egan Bernal (Team INEOS) 82:57:00
2. Geraint Thomas (Team INEOS) +1:11
3. Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) +1:31

Points Classification

1. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 316
2. Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) 248
3. Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick Step) 224

King of the Mountains

1. Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) 86
2. Egan Bernal (Team INEOS) 78
3. Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) 75

Egan Bernal made history by becoming the first Colombian to win the Tour de France in Paris on Sunday.

The 22-year-old all but claimed the title in the ski resort of Val Thorens on Saturday, crossing the line in fourth alongside Geraint Thomas to put Team INEOS on the brink of a one-two.

Bernal completed the formality of becoming the youngest Tour winner for 110 years by finishing the 128-kilometre procession from Rambouillet to the capital after sampling the customary glass of champagne soon after setting off.

Egan Bernal could surely not have envisaged that being ruled out of the Giro d'Italia in May might have been the greatest blessing in disguise he will ever have.

The 22-year-old had been primed to lead Team INEOS in the first Grand Tour of the year, but a broken collarbone denied him that opportunity.

Team INEOS sport director Nico Portal stated it would be unlikely Bernal would spearhead their challenge in both the Giro and the Tour de France before the injury blow he suffered in a training ride.

Bernal recovered from surgery and was named as joint-leader alongside defending champion Geraint Thomas for the most prestigious cycling event in the world after a horror crash put paid to Chris Froome's hopes of winning the Tour for a record-equalling fifth time.

The Zipaquira native now stands on the brink of becoming the first Colombian to win the Tour in Paris on Sunday, having already claimed Tour de Suisse and Paris–Nice titles this year.

For much of the race, the host nation were dreaming of a first French winner of the Tour in 34 years with Julian Alaphilippe a long-time leader and Thibaut Pinot firmly in contention.

Yet it was all change after a freak Friday in the Alps, where a hailstorm and mudslides brought stage 19 to a dramatic, premature end.

It was not only the extreme weather conditions that had made their mark on the stunning mountains, as Bernal showcased his climbing skills up the daunting Col de l'Iseran in what is set to be a decisive show of aggression.

He took the yellow jersey from Alaphilippe for the first time as a result of that bold move and it was still on his back after a long, gruelling climb to Val Thorens at the end of stage 20 - shortened due to concerns over the weather on Saturday.

Bernal and Thomas are poised to celebrate a one-two in the Champs-Elysees, where Alaphilippe is set to finish fifth with Pinot out due to a thigh injury.

Described by Team Sky as a "next generation general classification threat" when he signed two years ago, Bernal has delivered in the first Tour since INEOS' takeover of the dominant team.

He may have spoiled a potential Paris party, but there will be euphoric scenes throughout Colombia to toast a sensation who is on the verge of becoming the third-youngest Tour champion and the youngest for 110 years.

There may be lasting scars, but the pain of Bernal's pre-Giro training smash will be a distant memory when he cruises into the French capital.

Julian Alaphilippe insisted he was not frustrated about finishing fifth in the Tour de France despite leading the race for 14 days.

The 27-year-old Deceuninck-Quick Step rider took the overall lead in stage three and held the yellow jersey for two weeks in total, though he relinquished it to Giulio Ciccone for two days in the opening week.

Alaphilippe remained in charge in the latter stages but began to show signs of weakness in the Alps, just about staying ahead of eventual winner Egan Bernal at the end of stage 18.

Bernal took the lead when the 19th stage was cut short due to hail and mudslides and Alaphilippe lost further ground on the final competitive day on Saturday, slipping from second to fifth on the climb to Val Thorens.

Despite falling agonisingly short of becoming the first Frenchman to win the Tour since 1985, Alaphilippe refused to give in to negative thoughts.

"Why should I be frustrated?" he said. "I'm just exhausted, happy, proud of what I did, what we did with the team that wasn't the best equipped to win. We've had some great times.

"In my career, it will have changed a lot of things. It's just sport, moments of life you have to enjoy. It's nice.

"I gave it my all. I think it was hard to do better. I was expecting to explode at some point, but I still maintained well.

"I'm very proud of what my team-mate Enric Mas did for me, it was his job and he did it really well. Without him, I would've finished at a quarter-of-an-hour I think. That's my temperament. With me, it's a bit all or nothing.

"I was second overall before the stage this morning. If I was second, or fifth, it was the same for me, but I fought because I didn't want to have any regrets.

"I can only be proud of my Tour. It's even way beyond what I would have imagined."

Dave Brailsford said "strategy paid out over chaos" in the best Tour de France he has been involved in after Egan Bernal all but secured the title in a Team INEOS one-two.

Bernal is set to become the first Colombian Tour champion in Paris on Sunday after finishing fourth in a shortened penultimate stage from Albertville to Val Thorens, which was won by Vincenzo Nibali.

Defending champion Geraint Thomas put an arm around his team-mate Bernal as they crossed the line together on Saturday, effectively securing the top two places in the general classification.

The 22-year-old Bernal is poised to become the third-youngest winner of the race, having taken the yellow jersey off Julian Alaphilippe with an aggressive climb of the Col de l'Iseran on Friday before stage 19 was cut short due to a hail storm and mudslides in the Alps.

Brailsford has overseen six victories in the previous seven editions of the race for Team Sky and is savouring the prospect of celebrating yet again on the Champs-Elysees with the backing of a new sponsor.

The Team INEOS boss said: "I think everybody's been questioning the team a bit.

"It was a brilliant race, it was the most exciting Tour de France that we've taken part in. Credit to [Julian] Alaphilippe, because he died for that jersey every day and he made a lot of people second think what they thought they knew. And I think [Thibaut] Pinot did the same in the Pyrenees.

"But in the end strategy paid out over chaos, and teamwork paid out over individuals. You've got to wait until the end of the race to make a judgement, and that’s what's happened."

He added: "We knew we had a group of older guys who were performing well, but we looked very hard to find the new generation and we decided that it was going to be Egan. We fought pretty hard to get him and he developed fantastically well.

"The advice that G [Thomas] has given [Bernal], he knows what he's doing, he's generous with his advice and a generous person in that regard and in the end it was all about the team winning.

"A lot of people may have questioned having two leaders, were we hedging our bets and whether it was going to work. It's worked to perfection and you can't get better than second and first."

Steven Kruijswijk moved up to third in the general classification after the last competitive day of racing, with Alaphilippe dropping to fifth behind Emanuel Buchmann.

Old habits die hard, as Team INEOS – formerly Team Sky – look set to claim their seventh Tour de France win in eight years, and the first since a change of name.

Colombia's Egan Bernal is the leading man on this occasion, with the 22-year-old capitalising on poor conditions and a shortened final competitive stage to make history.

He joins Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas – who put his arm around Bernal as they crossed the line together on Saturday – in clinching the Tour under the Sky/INEOS banners.

Bernal is also set to become the first Colombian to win the Tour and the youngest victorious rider in 110 years, with the traditional parade all that remains on Sunday.

We look back on the team's domination of the race in recent years.

 

2012 – Wiggins makes history

After a promising start by Fabian Cancellara in the first week in 2012, Wiggins took over on stage seven and never looked back. He became the first Briton to win the Tour, while his team-mate Froome came second in the general classification.

2013 – Froome takes the lead

With Wiggins missing out due to a knee injury, Froome took charge in 2013. He took the yellow jersey on stage eight and did not relinquish his lead, with his impressive performances in individual time trials and the mountains standing him in good stead.

2015 – Froome back on top

Astana's Vincenzo Nibali was victorious in 2014, but Team Sky resumed their dominance a year later. Tony Martin led the fight against Froome before a crash on stage six forced his withdrawal, with the Kenya-born rider managing to hold off Nairo Quintana towards the end.

2016 – Va va Froome

Strong form in the mountains again proved vital for Froome, who claimed the yellow jersey in stage eight and surged to glory. Quintana was unable to offer the same kind of threat this time around, as Froome further extended his advantage in the final stages.

2017 – Three in a row

Fabio Aru appeared best placed to test Froome's dominance two years ago, as the Italian took the yellow jersey from him after stage 12 – the Team Sky ace disappointing on the steep finish up to Peyragudes. But in the 14th he retook the lead and held on to make it three wins on the trot.

2018 – Chris-crash gives Thomas his moment

Having won the 2018 Giro d'Italia to complete the Triple Crown just a few weeks earlier, Froome went into the Tour among the favourites. However, crashes on stages one and nine accentuated some rusty performances elsewhere, leading to Froome focusing on aiding team-mate Thomas, who succeeded in beating Tom Dumoulin to the top step of the podium.

2019 – New era, same habits

The name on the jerseys might have been slightly different, but the outcome was the same, as Team INEOS picked up where Team Sky left off. Bernal took the yellow jersey from Julian Alaphilippe in the penultimate competitive stage in bizarre circumstances, as it was cut short in the Alps due to a hail storm and mudslides. The Frenchman cracked 13 kilometres from the finish on Saturday, allowing Bernal to get the job done.

Egan Bernal said it would take him a while to realise the extent of his achievements as he prepares to celebrate a historic Tour de France victory.

Bernal is set to become the first Colombian to stand on the top step of the podium in Paris on Sunday after ending the final competitive day of racing with a 71-second lead over Team INEOS colleague Geraint Thomas.

The 22-year-old is poised to become the youngest winner of the most prestigious Grand Tour race for 110 years and the third-youngest champion of all time.

Bernal crossed the line fourth in Val Thorens, alongside Thomas at the end of a 20th stage - won by Vincenzo Nibali - that was shortened to 59.5 kilometres due to concerns over the weather, a day after racing was cut short due to a hail storm and mudslides in the Alps.

The pressure of wearing the yellow jersey for the first time on Saturday with victory in touching distance did not appear to affect Bernal, but the youngster was still trying to take in his accomplishment after finishing the stage.

He said: "It will need some time to sink in and for me to realise what's happening. It must be amazing in Colombia."

Congrats @eganbernal What a rider!! The first of many  #capo pic.twitter.com/omwVymQaRn

— Geraint Thomas (@GeraintThomas86) July 27, 2019

Defending champion Thomas expressed his delight for Bernal after they all but secured a one-two, with Steven Kruijswijk third in the general classification and Julian Alaphilippe dropping to fifth behind Emanuel Buchmann.

"To get first and second, it doesn't get any better. The fact that Egan's won above me, it's the best person to have in front of me." said the Briton.

"Obviously, it's been a crazy year for me, but I can be happy and proud that I've done everything possible to be in the best shape here. And the whole team has been amazing.

"We've taken a lot of flak as always, but I think we've proven time and time again that we're a real strong unit and we know how to ride well and perform in this race."

Egan Bernal is set to become the first Colombian to win the Tour de France on Sunday, in a Team INEOS one-two after Julian Alaphilippe suffered during a shortened penultimate stage.

The 22-year-old took the yellow jersey from Alaphilippe in bizarre circumstances on Friday, when stage 19 was brought to a premature end in the Alps due to a hail storm and severe mudslides on the descent of the Col de l'Iseran.

Bernal started the last competitive day of racing - shortened to only 59.5 kilometres due to more concerns over the weather - with a 45-second lead over Frenchman Alaphilippe.

Alaphilippe cracked 13km from the finish on a brutal, long climb to the finish in Val Thorens, where Bernal got the job done in his first day in the yellow jersey and Vincenzo Nibali claimed a breakaway stage win.

His INEOS colleague Geraint Thomas, last year's winner, took enough time out of Alaphilippe to ensure the team will take the top two steps on the podium.

Deceuninck–Quick-Step director Tom Steels praised "tremendous animator" Julian Alaphilippe after he lost the yellow jersey in dramatic fashion two days before the Tour de France finishes in Paris.

Team INEOS rider Egan Bernal took over as the race leader when stage 19 was cut short over 30 kilometres before the scheduled end of the 126.5km route from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Tignes on Friday.

A hail storm and severe mudslides in the Alps prompted race organisers to call a halt to racing on the descent of the Col de l'Iseran and it was later announced that the penultimate stage on Saturday has been reduced to only 59km due to "difficult weather conditions".

Bernal is well on course for the title after he was first to the summit of the Col de l'Iseran, which is where times were taken to calculate the new general classification standings.

Colombian Bernal subsequentally holds a 48-second advantage over Alaphilippe with just one competitive day of racing to come.

Steels believes it was the right call to stop the riders on safety grounds and saluted the spirit shown by Alaphilippe, carrying such a weight of expectiation on his shoulders on home soil bidding to become the first Frenchman to win the race for 34 years.

"We knew it was going to be a tough day, but it turned out to be also an unusual one," said Steels after Alaphilippe put on a brave face with fans despite such an agonising experience.

"On the descent, when Julian was going full gas, they told us to stop racing and I had to repeat it several times to Julian in the radio. We realised we had lost the yellow jersey, but it's a pity it was in such a strange way, just as it's a pity that they had to take this decision after what has been a great Tour.

"Anyway, it was a wise decision for the safety of the riders, you could see that from what was happening down the road. Despite what happened, we can be proud of our race. 

"The entire team fought hard, Julian gave everything and was a tremendous animator, and I'm sure people will remember this edition more for him than for that happened today."

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