With just two days left in the 2014 Amgen Tour of California, today’s 94.4-mile stage from Santa Clarita to Mountain High had all the makings of an epic showdown, with riders in contention for the overall win doing anything in their power to make up valuable seconds in hopes of overtaking the race leader before Sunday’s finale. But, as he crossed the summit finish today, Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins (GBR) had strengthened the lead he has held since Monday by another two seconds.
“This is a fantastic win for me and my teammates,” Chaves said. “I did not think it was possible [to win] until the final 2 kilometers. This is a special win for me to defeat guys like Tom Danielson and finish ahead of Wiggins. This is a dream come true.”
Photos © Christy Nicholson / EchelonDesignPhoto.com
Mountain High is a first-time Amgen Tour of California Host City, and Stage 6 presented by Crunchies Natural Snacks included the second mountaintop finish of 2014. ORICA-GreenEDGE’s Esteban Chaves (COL) rode to an impressive solo stage win after joining an early breakaway of six and pulling away from the remaining three riders on the slopes of Mountain High with about three miles left to ride. Joining 24-year-old Chaves on the podium today were his breakaway comrades and fellow climbing specialists David de la Cruz (ESP) with Team NetApp-Endura (+:13) and Tom Danielson (USA) with Team Garmin-Sharp (+:41), who placed third overall in the 2011 and 2012 race editions.
Wiggins is now squarely in the driver’s seat going into the final two days and final two stages.
“The boys [his team] really did a fantastic job and they really put me in a good position near the finish,” Wiggins said. “I was really just monitoring Team Garmin-Sharp and [Rohan] Dennis. It wasn’t until the final 300 meters near the big screen [at the finish] when I noticed there were only four us left in the [chase] group.”
The main pack of riders containing the general classification contenders pulled to the line seconds later after toiling up the nearly 12-mile climb, with the leaders in close proximity to one another. Today’s close result was crucial for Wiggins to defend his overall position. Team Sky knew it would be a day rife with attacks on the Tour de France winner, and they worked together to set a fast pace at the front of the peloton for much of the stage. Lying in wait within the main group were the other general classification challengers, including second-place contender Rohan Dennis (AUS) with Team Garmin-Sharp and BMC Racing Team’s Peter Stetina (Boulder, Colo.). Approaching the mountain, Dennis’ teammates attempted to bridge him to the breakaway, but the peloton’s fast pace shut down the possibility of a successful jump out of the pack.
During the approximately 4,000-foot climb up Mountain High, which has an average 6.3% grade, Team Sky’s Joe Dombrowski (Charlottesville, , Virginia) set a fast enough pace in the final miles to make it nearly impossible for other teams to attack on the slope, which heightened to a double-digit grade in the final three miles. Challenges from Team Garmin-Sharp and BMC Racing Team led nowhere, and Wiggins and his teammates took control of the thinning group into the final kilometers as Wiggins ultimately retained the Amgen Race Leader Jersey and shoring up his overall lead (+:30) over Dennis with a fifth-place stage finish. Lawson Craddock (Austin, Texas) of Team Giant-Shimano remains in the Crunchies Best Young Rider jersey and moves into third place overall (+1:48) with Team NetApp-Endura’s Tiago Machado (POR) slipping to fourth place (+2:02). Cannondale Pro Cycling’s Peter Sagan (SVK) remains in the Visit California Sprint Leader Jersey. UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team’s Christopher Jones (USA) was awarded the Amgen Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey for his part in the breakaway and leading the charge up today’s smaller climbs before Mountain High.
Will Routley (CAN) of Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies once again will don the Michelob Ultra King of the Mountain Jersey, which he has held since day two of competition, further cementing his chances as overall winner of the KOM competition when the race ends Sunday.