Tour of California: Wiggins keeps race lead after mountain showdown

Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) has come through his first test at the Tour of California, with the yellow jersey still on his shoulders. While Wiggins lost some time to stage winner Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp), he kept his loses to a minimum and still holds a 24 second advantage over the Australian.

The British rider - who took the lead after the stage two time trial - looked strong as he pushed the peloton hard up Mt Diablo. At one stage Wiggins had the peloton strung out along the slopes of the tough climb. The tactic is one often used by Team Sky to quash any attacks, but Wiggins admitted that he didn’t get it totally right. “On the last climb I just wanted to ride a good tempo and avoid all the accelerations,” Wiggins said on the team's website.

“I did that and then it was just about getting to the top at the end. It was difficult to know who was in the group riding on the front. That was probably the only mistake I made as Rohan Dennis took a little bit of time. I perhaps underestimated that he'd be there so we just need to keep a closer eye on him on the next ones.”

Stage three was another sweltering day in the saddle for the whole peloton, with temperatures reaching around 93 degrees Fahrenheit (34 Celsius). The heat forced most riders to completely open their jerseys. Dennis crossed the line without a sponsor logo in sight, as his jersey flapped by his sides. For Wiggins, the heat was as much of a danger to his overall classification hopes as Mt Diablo.

"It doesn't get much hotter than in a race and my biggest concern today was just exploding. I was drinking all day and the boys were just incredible. They rode all stage and minimised the break,” he explained. "Hopefully today was about as hard as it should get for the boys. I think the next two days should, fingers crossed, be a bit more straightforward. Friday is the next big challenge and then it's into the weekend."

Stage four will be another test in the mountains, with three first category climbs for the riders to contend with. However, the flat final 22 kilometres give a chance for the peloton to regroup before the finish. Friday’s stage six on the summit finish of the aptly named Mountain High, will be a stern test of Wiggins’ resolve. With Dennis snapping at his heels the overall victory is far from certain.

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