A stellar performance on the steep slopes of Mount Diablo saw yesterday’s second-place finisher, Team Garmin-Sharp’s Rohan Dennis (AUS), gain 20 seconds on the 2014 Amgen Tour of California race leader, Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins (GBR), and capture the Queen Stage win in the process.
Presented by Michelob Ultra, the 108.5-mile Stage 3 was considered to be the toughest of the race week and included two categorized climbs. A breakaway of eight riders around mile three held the gap, at times nearly seven minutes, for more than 90 miles. It began to close with 30 miles left to ride as Team Sky took control of the peloton’s pace.
As the 3,848-foot ascent up Mount Diablo began, the peloton began to swallow the riders back up, one by one. Ultimately, three remained out in front with less than five miles to go, swapping attacks, including Robbie Squire (USA) of Team Jamis-Hagins Berman p/b Sutter Home and the Mexican National Champion Luis Davila of Jelly Belly Cycling Team p/b MAXXIS, whose energetic ride earned him the Amgen Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey.
Photos © Darrell Parks
Protected and put into position by his team at the beginning of the 10.8-mile climb up Mount Diablo, Wiggins was soon at the head of the pack, setting a steady, fast pace for the duration that no one in the peloton could contest for most of the way to the summit. Wiggins was isolated with all the major contenders the last five miles of the 108.5-mile stage after his Team Sky teammates had reeled in a long breakaway. With the driving pace up the 6 percent average grade slope, the peloton quickly thinned to about 25 riders, several of whom fell off toward the top.
“The boys did a good job in this heat. I was alone about the last 8 kilometers I think. We did this climb a little over a week ago. I knew how it kicked up the last 300 meters. It was a tough climb. Every day is a tough day when you’re in yellow,” said Wiggins.
The final two miles were punctuated with attacks on Wiggins, first by last year’s KOM champion Carter Jones (Boulder, Colo.) of Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies, and then by Janier Acevedo (COL) of Team Garmin-Sharp, who placed second on last year’s Mount Diablo summit finish. Though both were quickly reigned in, the stage was set for the final attack by Dennis, who was in the wings to pounce from just behind Wiggins’ wheel during the final half-mile, where the grade turned to 17 percent near the finish. Wiggins ended the stage in 9th place to retain the Amgen Race Leader Jersey and a lead of 24 seconds.
Other podium finishers today included Team NetApp-Endura’s Tiago Machado (POR) in second place and last year’s best young rider Lawson Craddock (Austin, Texas) of Team Giant-Shimano in third place to tighten his hold on the Crunchies Best Young Rider jersey.
Earlier in the stage, the riders gained nearly 4,000 feet in elevation from the start line in east San Jose to the top of Mount Hamilton just over 20 miles into the race. Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies’ Will Routley (CAN) shored up another day in the Michelob Ultra King of the Mountain Jersey early on, riding with the breakaway to become the first over Mount Hamilton. The Visit California Sprint Leader Jersey remains with Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team’s Mark Cavendish who captured the jersey while earning the victory in Sunday’s first stage.