Optum's Carter Jones is not satisfied with his current eighth place overall at the Tour of California and is aiming to move up in rank during Stage 6 on Friday, the event's second summit finish on Mountain High. The domestic climber is shooting for a summit stage win and to improve his position in the overall.
"The goal coming into this race was a top-10 overall, so eighth place is in line with that objective," Jones told Cyclingnews. "That said, it's not in my nature to be satisfied with eigth overall, so I'm always hoping for more."
Jones is 2:31 minutes down in the overall classification, so moving ahead of race leader Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) might be out of his reach. Jumping up to fifth place, however, could be a possibility as Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) is in fifth place 2:14 minutes back followed by Peter Stetina (BMC Racing) in sixth and Matthew Busche (Trek Factory Racing) in seventh.
"Unfortunately, unless something out of the ordinary happens, the time trial limited my GC prospects pretty much to the group of us from fifth through eleventh place," Jones said. "It's quite a tight bunch good climbers."
Jones is currently the highest place rider of the domestic teams competing at the Tour of California. He moved up the GC ranking after a strong showing during the third stage where he attacked from a select group of climbers along the Mount Diablo ascent with three kilometers to the first summit finish.
The group also included race leader Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), runner-up in GC Rohan Dennis and his teammate Janier Acevedo (Garmin-Sharp), Tiago Machado (NetApp-Endura) and Lawson Craddock (Giant-Shimano), who are third and fourth placed in the overall, along with Yates and Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Orica-GreenEdge), Stetina, Laurens ten Dam (Belkin) and Busche.
He was reabsorbed into the small group but managed to finish a respectable sixth place. "I was hoping someone would come with me when I attacked, maybe get a little leash since I had time to make up," Jones said. "Once I saw Wiggins wasn't going to let me go, I decided to ease off and make sure I was ready for the kicker at the finish.
"I am thrilled with the result. The team had a lot of confidence supporting me, which gave me more confidence in myself. It's always inspiring to have the opportunity to compete against the world's best."
He believes the next opportunity to make significant gains in the overall will be on the summit of Mountain High, where he also hopes to win the stage.
"Competing for the stage win in Mountain High is definitely the goal," Jones said. "Thankfully, having that as a goal will also help accomplish improving my GC spot as well. Tactics are pretty straight forward in that regard."
Jones came into the Tour of California as one of the strongest climbers of the domestic teams, having won the Tour of the Gila on May 4 held in and around Silver City, New Mexico.
"Without a doubt, Tour of the Gila was the biggest win of my career," Jones said. "Gila was my first UCI overall victory as well as any stage race at the national level. I have been close before, so finally sealing the win was a big step developmentally for me."
Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies has already had ample success during the opening four stages. Will Routley won the Stage 4 breakaway sprint into Cambria on Wednesday, represented the team in a breakaway during the first three road stages, and was leading both the King of the Mountain and the Sprint competitions after the fourth stage.
"Jonas [Carney] selected a very well-rounded team for the Tour of California," Jones said. "Overall, it's important that we make an impact on the race everyday. We are here to be competitive, not pack fill."