Rohan Dennis Answers Call of Garmin-Sharp Fans on Mount Diablo
A stellar solo performance on the steep slopes of Mount Diablo saw yesterday’s stage 2 time trial second-place finisher, Team Garmin-Sharp’s Australian Rohan Dennis, gain 20 seconds on the 2014 Amgen Tour of California race leader, Team Sky Pro Cycling’s Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain, and capture the Queen Stage victory in the process.
Today's 108.5-mile stage 3 was considered to be the toughest of the one-week race and featured 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 and started reeling in the escapees.
As the 3,848-foot ascent up Mount Diablo began, the peloton began to swallow the riders back up, one by one. Eventually, three riders 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 and repeated attacks earned him the Most Courageous Rider Jersey.
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 peloton, setting a steady, tough pace in order to prevent counter attacks. For long, no riders in the peloton showed signs of being able to contest Wiggins' grinding and exhausting effort. Wiggins, however, was isolated with all the other major contenders the last five miles of the 108.5-mile stage after his Team Sky teammates had reeled in the day's 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,” Wiggins said after the finish.
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 reeled in, the stage was set for the final attack by Dennis, who was sitting on 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.
Commenting on his stage victory Dennis told RoadCycling.com "The guys made sure I had bottles all day, my water never even felt warm! They made sure I didn’t have to do any work until that last attack. The plan was for me to hold time and not lose any time and to hold second place, that was my personal goal."
"At the bottom of the climb that was still the plan in my head. It wasn’t until 2 km I noticed people were cracking around me. It have me confidence in my ability. I knew I could still go deeper. Wiggins rode on the front for a long time, it felt like 10 km! He was amazing. He had to do it and it’s his riding style. It was an amazing ride."
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 Team Omega Pharma–QuickStep's former world champion Mark Cavendish, who captured the jersey while earning the victory in Sunday’s first stage of this year's Tour of California.
Wednesday's stage 4 will challenge the professional peloton with a 165 kilometer ride along the coast from Monterey to Cambria.
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