Quick-Step director salutes Alaphilippe after painful day

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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