Rohan Dennis Takes the Summit Win in Tour of California Stage Three
Rohan Dennis Takes the Summit Win in Tour of California Stage Three

Garmin Sharp’s Rohan Dennis attacked in the final few hundred meters of the 17-percent slopes of Mount Diablo to win Stage Three of the Amgen Tour of California Tuesday afternoon.

With the stage win the 23-year-old Australian moved to second in the General Classification, only 24 seconds behind race leader Sir Bradley Wiggins.

Dennis was part of as group of just 15 riders who could stay with the Sky’s Bradley Wiggins, who set a blazing pace of about 17 mph up the Hors Categorie climb.

Only two riders even tried to attack on the 13-percent portion of the long climb: Optum Kelly Benefit rider Carter Jones made a move 3.2 km from the summit, got a gap of 15 seconds, and was quickly reabsorbed; Wiggins didn’t even bother to lift the pace, but just grinded on until Jones ran out of power.

Garmin-Sharp’s best climber, Janier Acevedo, made another move 1.5 km from the finish line, and this one Wiggins covered, considering Acevedo to be too good going uphill to be allowed even a small gap.

Orica-GreenEdge rider Adam Yates waited until the steepest part of the climb, the final 500 meters; here, riders knew, Bradley Wiggins’ steady climbing style would be most vulnerable; the 34-year-old Englishman doesn’t do well on short, sharp bursts.

Rohan Dennis followed along with a few riders, then launched his own attack when the rest were spent from chasing Yates. He crossed the finish line six seconds ahead of Tiago Machado of NettApp-Eduro, who was two seconds ahead of Lawson Craddock of Giant-Shimano. Yates finished another three seconds back. Wiggins finished ninth, losing 20 seconds to Dennis.  

A group of eight riders attacked at kilometer five. This group— Maarten Wynants (Belkin,) Jonathan Clarke (UnitedHealthcare,) Paul Voss (NetApp-Endura,) Will Routley (Optum-Kelly Benefit,) Luis Lemus (Jelly Belly-Maxxis,) Robbie Squire (Jamis-Hagens Berman,) Ruben Zepuntke (Bissell,) and David Lozano Riba (Novo Nordisk)—got a maximum gap of just over six minutes at the top of the day’s first climb, the Hors Categorie Mount Hamilton.

After Mt. Hamilton the route stretched for 130 km before starting the day’s final climb, the Hors Categorie Mount Diablo. Mount Diablo is listed as ten km at six percent average gradient, but the road starts up ten km before that. The top half of the climb tilts up to 13 percent; the final 500 meters rise to 17 percent.

Here Sky used the same formula which won them the last two Tours de France: they rode with perfect organization at a pace so high on the flats and the lower part of the climb that no other team could consider taking the lead, let alone attacking.

Will Routely had dropped from the break after creting Mount Hamilton; he had enough King of the Mountian points to keep the lead no matter where he finished on Mt. Diablo, and didn’t want to wear himself out. The remaining seven dropped to four as soon as they hit the first slopes of Mt. Diablo.

Two-time Mexican national Champion Luis Lemus attacked the break 13.9 km from the top; Robbie Squire and Paul Voss responded. Voss attacked next, seven km from the finish. Squire was done, but Lemus chased Voss, caught him, and went right over the top.

Voss gave up and let the peloton catch him, while Lemus soldiered on until Wiggins rode him down with five km left in the stage.

There is still a lot of climbing left in the race, but Wiggins finds himself in a very strong position. The race leader lost 20 seconds to Rohan Dennis but still has a 24-seconds lead. Wiggins has one minute-five on Tiago Machado, 1:21 on American Lawson Craddock , and 2:10 on Orica’s Adam Yates.

Rohan Dennis is young and strong, but might not be the best climber on the Garmin-Sharp team; Janier Acevedo and Tom Danielson might be stronger. However, Acevedo is tenth overall, two-and-a-half minutes back, and Danielson fuerther. BMC’s Peter Stetina is sixth, 2:24 back, and Belkin rider Laurens Ten Dam is 2:29 down.

If Wiggins can keep up with Dennis on the climbs—and it is hard to imagine he could not—then the Sky rider should win the race. Sky is arguably the strongest, best-disciplined team; they have mastered the drill of burning out the opposition and letting the team leader take the win on the final climb. And with Wiggins knowing he only has very few riders to mark, he can relax, while the rest of the peloton will be fighting hard for places on the podium.

Stage 4, 166 kms from Monterey to Cambria, features two Cat 4 climbs, Big Sur/CA-1, and CA-1, and another climb up CA-1, this one a Cat 3—nothing to challenge the GC riders, so there will likely be no change in the overall. This could be a good stage for a late breakaway to succeed, if the sprinters are worn out by the hills. Otherwise, look for Sky to shepherd Wiggins safely to the finish and let the quick men fight it out among themselves.

Ninth Amgen Tour of California

General Classification after Stage Four

1

Bradley Wiggins

Sky

10:03:57

2

Rohan Dennis

Garmin Sharp

0:00:24

3

Tiago Machado

NetApp-Endura

0:01:05

4

Lawson Craddock

Giant-Shimano

0:01:21

5

Adam Yates

Orica GreenEdge

0:02:10

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