With temperature's forecast near 100 degrees Fahrenheit again for stage 6 of the Tour of California, the peloton and race leader Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) are anticipating another difficult day in the sun on the route from Santa Clarita to the uphill finish on Mountain High.
The mercury rose well above 100 degrees during Thursday's stage from Pismo Beach to Santa Barbara - won by BMC's Taylor Phinney - and Friday will be only slightly cooler.
"It was ridiculous," Wiggins said of Thursday's heat. "It was the hottest I've ever raced a bike in. It was 42 degrees [Celcius] at one point. It was like being in an oven. Everyone felt it today. That was a tough one. Fortunately, the speeds were quite high, so we weren't out there for a long time, just three hours and 40 minutes. But, yeah, that certainly was probably the hottest day I've ever experienced on my bike."
Although stage 3, which started with the out-of-category climb of Mt. Hamilton and finished with the out-of-category climb to Mt. Diablo, was considered the Queen stage by most, Friday's finish at Mountain High will be another chance for the general classification riders to try and shake things up.
Craddock, who is from Houston, Texas, said he's ready for more heat.
"I live in heat hotter than this, so you can get used to it," he said. "I was born in a hotter place, and I grew up riding in 100 degree [Fahrenheit] temperatures. You just have to stay hydrated and be smart."
Wiggins, the knight from England, said he and his team know what to expect and will be ready to defend his yellow jersey.
"Everyone is different, you know," he said. "Certainly some guys will suffer, but it's the same for everybody, so that's part of the challenge day after day. We've been there a couple of weeks ago, so we know what to expect. But I think they're predicting cooler temperatures for tomorrow, so I think that will make a big difference for everyone.
"[The team has] been so important every day to me," Wiggins continued. "You know it's alright leading the race, but you're nothing without a team behind you, so they'll be back on it tomorrow, for sure."
While Dennis, Machado and Craddock are obviously hoping for enough fireworks on Mountain High to shake up the overall race and improve their GC positions, Taylor Phinney, the stage 5 winner who finished third to Wiggins and Dennis in the time trial on day two, said he believes Wiggins has already sealed the win.
"I hate to be a spoiler," he said. "But I think the yellow jersey is pretty locked down. Sky seemed quite strong. Wiggins seems like he could ride the front all day long and still win. But I think Garmin and some of the other teams are going to want to go on the attack and try to break up the rhythm. But the days aren't hard enough to completely crack the whole team, Team Sky, and definitely not hard enough to crack Wiggins. I think he just has to stay safe and stay conservative."
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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.
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