On the first of two consecutive stages in the Dolomites, the peloton was due to tackle two major mountain passes – the Gavia and the Stelvio, the latter, at 2,758 metres, being the highest point of the race’s 96th edition.

That plan was virtually abandoned late on Thursday when organisers, fearing for the safety of the peloton, announced a ‘Plan B’ with the Gavia and Stelvio replaced by the Tonale and Castrin mountain passes.

However it was discovered early on Friday that the Tonale pass was also snowbound.

A short statement posted by organisers on their Twitter feed said: “Due to adverse weather conditions and, in particular, snow on the stage route in its entirety, stage 19 has been cancelled.”

The decision was welcomed by riders in the peloton, who this year have raced in atrocious weather conditions in what has been an unseasonably wet and cold spring.

Julian Dean, an assistant sports director with the Orica-GreenEdge team, said: “I’d say the boys are relieved + content w/ the decision that was made. No one wants to deal with conditions like this.”

On Thursday, race leader Vincenzo Nibali of Italy extended his advantage over his closest rival, Australian Cadel Evans, to 4min 02sec after winning a 20.6 km uphill time trial.

Although the cancellation of the stage essentially robbed Evans of a chance to try to close the gap on Nibali, the Australian did not seem vexed with the decision.

He gave an indication of the conditions to be expected near 2,000 metres when he posted a message on his Twitter feed, which said: “Snow still falling here at our Giro Hotel…and we are at 1000m lower altitude than the proposed climbs.”