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Tour of California 2014: Stage 6


You're joining us for live coverage of stage 6 of the Tour of California.  Today's stage covers 94.4 miles from Santa Clarita to Mountain High.

Hello and welcome to today's live coverage from the Tour of California.  Can you believe we're already on stage 6?  Two more days to go after today.

The riders are scheduled to head out in a few minutes at 11:35 from Santa Clarita.  Today's stage will take them 94.4 miles and end atop Mountain High.

As with some of the other stages this week, this one begins with a neutral roll out.  They'll officially start in 2.2 miles.

From Santa Clarita, riders will head east, the north, then south east.  They'll pass through towns like Palmdale and Littlerock on the way to the finish at Mountain High.

It's not a picnic stage - there will be plenty of up and down and the stage actually finishes up much higher than it starts, thanks in part to a big climb at the end.

According to the race guide, "Stage 6 will start in the Newhall section of Santa Clarita. For those racers who came screaming down Bouquet Canyon to the finish of stage 3 in 2013, they will know that they have a long and steep climb up Bouquet Canyon. "

The riders are rolling on their neutral start.  We've got perfect attendance today - that is all riders who finished yesterday's stage are starting today.

The riders are officially underway.  Let the racing begin!

To bring you up to speed, our current GC, after six stages is as follows:
1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky 17:53:36
2 Rohan Dennis (Aus) Garmin Sharp 0:00:28
3 Tiago Machado (Por) Team NetApp-Endura 0:01:09
4 Lawson Craddock (USA) Team Giant-Shimano 0:01:25
5 Adam Yates (GBr) Orica GreenEdge 0:02:14

There were no changes at the top of the GC yesterday in stage 5, which was won by Taylor Phinney.   Top results from yesterday's stage, which you can read all about here, were: 

Speaking yesterday after his win, Taylor Phinney said, "It's huge to win at home, in front of a home crowd. I'm from Colorado but I spend a lot of time in Santa Barbara, and I've done that descent many times. It's always special to win, but to win like that is the best way."

Today's stage features four KOMs and two intermediate sprints.  First up are the KOMs at miles 26.2 and 29.4.  Then we have two sprints at miles 40.7 and 49.8, and finally, the last two KOMs come at miles 63.9 and 94.4 (the finish).

The field is all strung out and attacks are going.  A group of six is trying to get away at the moment.

A fire truck just pulled onto the course with its lights going.  It's not related to the race, though.

The group of six was caught, but attacks are still going.

One poor rider is getting dropped on the first climb, but everyone's under pressure.  There are splits in the field - so that there are three real bunches.

132km remaining from 156km

It's nice and sunny today though the landscape around us is rather barren.

Our break includes six men, who now have 30 seconds.  The peloton doesn't seem particularly motivated to chase them at the moment.
Tom Danielson (Garmin Sharp)
Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Orica GreenEdge)
Jack Bobridge (Belkin Pro Cycling Team)
Christopher Jones (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team)
David De La Cruz Melgarejo (Team NetApp-Endura)
Javier Megias Leal (Team Novo Nordisk)

It's really hot again today, about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Official have just opened the feeding as the break has gotten itself 50 seconds.  It looks like this might be the break that sticks.

Riders are on a flat road, surrounded by small hills. Team cars, VIP and media have just been invited into the gap between the peloton and the break.  That means that they must have over two minutes.  Behind the break, the peloton is cruising at 22mph.

123km remaining from 156km

The first KOM comes in about five miles.  It's a category 3 climb in Bouquet Canyon.  After it, they'll get a short break, but then it's up again for the second KOM.

Points for the first KOM in Bouquet Canyon are 6, 5, 4, 3 and 1 respectively.

Yesterday's stage winner Taylor Phinney shared his thoughts on race leader Bradley Wiggins. "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."

With a three-minute gap, today's first KOM points will definitely be swallowed up by the break's riders.

Everyone is wondering whether race leader Bradley Wiggins (Sky) will be able to defend his yellow jersey against the climbers during this stage, with its mountain top finish.

You may recal that Bradley Wiggins lost time to GC runner-up Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp) on the stage that finished atop Mount Diablo earlier this week.  It could happen again although it might not.  Apparently the climb doesn't have the steep part at the top and Wiggins seemed to do pretty well on the less steep parts up Mt. Diablo.  He didn't lose time until the end, with its tough final pitch.

114km remaining from 156km

Kirk Carlsen (Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis) has abandoned the race.

Our media car thermometer says it's 102 degrees now. On the climb, it spiked to 130 at one point, but we're not sure how accurate that was. Following the KOM, we're on a bit of a plateau, passing a reservoir.

Before the stage today, race leader Bradley Wiggins told us, "So far it's been a fantastic race. Everywhere we go the crowds have just taken to the race. It's been a real honor to ride, actually.
It's going to be tough again today with all the heat as well as the impact from yesterday and how well guys recover. That was pretty hot out there."  Wiggins told us that he has ridden Mountain High and he knows what to expect.

Next up is the second KOM, at mile 29.4.  It's a Cat. 4 so won't offer quite as many points as the last one, which was a Cat. 3.  As the break heads toward the second KOM, they have a gap of 3:50.

108km remaining from 156km

Going into today's stage, the KOM standings were
1. William Routley (Can) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies 42 pts
2. Rohan Dennis (Aus) Garmin Sharp 16
3. Jonathan Clarke (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team 13
4. Matt Cooke (USA) Jamis - Hagens Berman 13
5. Tiago Machado (Por) Team NetApp-Endura 10

As the peloton passed through Green Valley, teams Garmin and Sky were doing most of the pace setting, which is pretty much what you would expect for the teams of the top two riders in the GC standings.  They're going to want to keep the break under control so that their leaders can do their thing when we get to the final climb.

Though now Garmin will be one rider down in its efforts. Phillip Gaimon (Garmin Sharp) has just abandoned.

The Scratch Labs neutral support crew seems to be doing more supporting of the photographers than the riders in the past few miles.  It's a scorcher out there again today.

Speaking of Garmin-Sharp, they are the top team in our current standings which are
1. Garmin-Sharp 53:46:28
2. Orica GreenEdge 0:00:41
3. Team Giant-Shimano 0:02:25
4. Trek Factory Racing 0:05:14
5. Jamis - Hagens Berman 0:09:26

Prior to the start today, Garmin's Rohan-Dennis told us, "I think our team has a lot more energy from conserving throughout the week. Sky has had to ride pretty much every day. We've just been sitting back and letting them do it. So I think we're going to fare better In the end. On Diablo, we had 3 or 4 riders out of the top 20."

Oops, Mark Cavendish just went down in a corner, but he's back up again! Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, his Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling teammate, is helping him chase back on.

103km remaining from 156km

As a reminder or in case you're just joining us, our break includes six men today:
Tom Danielson (Garmin Sharp)
Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Orica GreenEdge)
Jack Bobridge (Belkin Pro Cycling Team)
Christopher Jones (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team)
David De La Cruz Melgarejo (Team NetApp-Endura)
Javier Megias Leal (Team Novo Nordisk)

Mark Cavendish has successfully made it back into the peloton.  While today's finish is not one for him, he'll be relieved not to be riding the rest of the stage on his own - it's much easier to sit in the bunch.

90km remaining from 156km

Lawson Craddock (Giant-Shimano) had to get a bike change, but he's back safely in the main bunch.  Craddock is third overall in the GC.

Prior to the start today, Craddock's Giant-Shimano teammate Chad Haga told us, "First and foremost, we have to keep Lawson's GC position and hopefully even move him up. That will be the main focus today, just to keep him protected and let him have a good ride up that climb."

79km remaining from 156km

Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team) had a mechanical and had to receive some assistance, but now he is back in the peloton.

We're going past a Sizzler restaurant.  That seems very appropriate on a scorcher of a day like today!

What's next up is the second and final intermediate sprint of the day.  It comes at mile 49.8 and happens here in Palmdale.

On the subject of sprints, our points standings as of the start of this stage were
1.  Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale 22 pts
2.  William Routley (Can) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies 19
3.  Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 19
4.  Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team 18
5.  Gregory Daniel (USA) Bissell Development Team 17

Tom Danielson has made it two for two in today's sprints.  He takes the second one, too.  Results are
1. Tom Danielson (Garmin Sharp)
2. Javier Megias Leal (Team Novo Nordisk)
3. David De La Cruz Melgarejo (Team NetApp-Endura)

75km remaining from 156km

Race radio tells us that Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team) has abandoned. We don't' know why. Maybe Belgians don't like 100-degree weather!

Another rider pulls the plug.  Nicolai Brochner (Bissell Development Team) has abandoned.

Jamis doesn't have any top GC contenders, but every stage is still a chance for a good stage result. Matt Cooke told us, "Our climbers very strong and they are motivated. We've got two really good climbers (Daniel Jaramillo and Greg Brenes) and me to help them out. We heard it's not quite as steep as people led us to believe. So there might be a bigger group and then guys sprinting out of it."

Lawson Craddock (Giant-Shimano), whom we mentioned just a bit ago, isn't just the third placed rider in the GC.  He's also leading the best young rider standings which are
1. Lawson Craddock (USA) Team Giant-Shimano 17:55:01
2. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica GreenEdge 0:00:49
3. Damien Howson (Aus) Orica GreenEdge 0:01:34
4. Daan Olivier (Ned) Team Giant-Shimano 0:02:47
5. Clément Chevrier (Fra) Bissell Development Team 0:05:50

With the gap closed a bit, down to 3:30, the yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins, decides it is time to stop for a nature break.

Lawson Craddock has another bike change.  Maybe they fixed his first one and he's back on it.  It'd be nice to climb on your own personal bike for a stage that finishes like the one today does.

58km remaining from 156km

When asked about his top rival Bradley Wiggins, who is in yellow, Rohan Dennis said to us that he wasn't just worried about Wiggins, but also about Tiago Machado and Lawson Craddock. "They are a danger, too. Tiago Machado is a tough rider," said Dennis. "And all of the people are not talking about him, but we are definitely not forgetting about him. He was second on Diablo, and he still could kick at the end."

The gap closed to 2:55, and the officials were trying to push all the cars out of the way, but it's back up to 3:40.

The peloton is pretty stretched out at the moment, and some riders are at the back of it getting feeds from the team cars.

Mark Cavendish is getting a bike change.  Perhaps he damaged it in that crash a bit ago?

50km remaining from 156km

The leaders are getting close to the KOM #3.  They're just passing the 1km to go sign, and a few of them are out of the saddle.

Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Orica GreenEdge), as the highest placed rider on the GC, is the virtual leader on the road. He was 3:32 behind Wiggins at the start of today's stage. Of course, we're pretty sure Sky is on top of monitoring the gap and making sure it doesn't get to big to jeopardize Wiggins' lead.

49km remaining from 156km

The final climb effectively will start going up Big Pine Rd., which was the first of many on the 2010 route. As the riders reach the top of the climb and have Mountain High Ski resort in their sights, the leaders will find that the route makes a 180-degree turn up Table Mountain Rd and another steep 1.2-mile climb to the remote finish at Mountain High North. This will be the second true mountaintop finish of 2014. The final Mountain High climb totals 17 miles.

Today's stage features a total 11,700 ft of climbing.  That makes us tired just thinking about it!  Especially on day 6 legs.

We asked Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp) what would constitute a good day today and he said, "Taking 24 seconds out of Wiggo. That would be perfect!"

Bradley Wiggins (Sky) is sitting pretty comfortably in the peloton, surrounded by his teammates.  The peloton is 3:05 behind the break.

Will Routley, clad in polka dots, gets another bottle from his team car.

In case you missed today's Giro coverage, check out all the action from stage 7 here.  We'll be back on live again tomorrow to bring you coverage of stage 8, too.

We're expecting a showdown between Bradley Wiggins and Rohan Dennis going out Mountain High.  Wiggins just has to defend - not to say that is an easy task - whereas Dennis will need to go on the offensive again to make up more time. 

29km remaining from 156km

It's pretty brown all around the terrain where the peloton is moving. While there are trees, none of them are the sort that provide any shade to the riders on the road.

From here on out, it's pretty much all uphill for the break.  Some of the leaders are getting more water.  It's important to stay hydrated on a day like today.

The gap is right on 3:00.  At the front, Tom Danielson takes a pull and then swings off.  They're still rotating through regularly.

The peloton doesn't seem too stressed yet about chasing.  The riders are spread across their section of road.  Bradley Wiggins is still keeping watch near the front.

18km remaining from 156km

One of the break riders, Javier Megias Leal (Team Novo Nordisk), needed a bike change. Unfortunately, that means he had to drop out of the break and is now in between the break and the peloton.

17km remaining from 156km

The leaders are visibly working harder now.  You can tell by their body language - it must be steeper.

The average gradient is 6.3 percent.  Some parts will be easier and some will be steeper.

Christopher Jones (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team) was just at the front of the break, but seems to be having some trouble now.

Tom Danielson (Garmin Sharp) is at the front and it seems like others are reluctant to come through.  So he gestures at the others as if to say, "Hey, c'mon guys, I could use some help!"

Ben King (Garmin-Sharp) launches an attack out of the front of the peloton.  He's going to try to bridge up to the leaders.  This may be part of the strategy to help Rohan Dennis.

Tom Danielson is back at the front of the break while Chris Jones comes off the back of the break.

Our four-man break now contains:
Tom Danielson (Garmin Sharp)
Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Orica GreenEdge)
Jack Bobridge (Belkin Pro Cycling Team)
David De La Cruz Melgarejo (Team NetApp-Endura)

Ben King catches up to the two breakaway survivors.

Jack Bobridge (Belkin Pro Cycling Team) comes off the back of the break.

With Tom Danielson and Ben King ahead of the peloton, it's a good situation for Garmin-Sharp.  It means Rohan Dennis has support up in front for toward the end of the climb if needed.

10km remaining from 156km

They leaders are closing in on the 10km to go mark.  That's still a lot of climbing left to do.

Rohan Dennis is closely marking Bradley Wiggins.  At the moment, Wiggins is seated while Dennis is standing out of the saddle.

In the peloton, we also see GC contenders like Tiago Machado, Lawson Craddock and Adam Yates as well as KOM leader Will Routley and sprint leader Peter Sagan.

7km remaining from 156km

Under increasing pressure from the peloton, Ben King is re-absorbed.

Jack Bobridge (Belkin Pro Cycling Team) makes a bit of comeback and rides himself back up to the three leaders... well almost... we'll see if can pull it off.

There's "only" 6km to go.  The Wiggins' peloton has closed to 2:05.  There seems to be suddenly way fewer Sky riders with him.

Michael Schär (BMC Racing) is doing some work for his team leader Peter Stetina.

There's a brief downhill and then it's back to climbing.

Jack Bobridge (Belkin Pro Cycling Team) pulls off the bridge back up to the leaders after having been dropped earlier. That's an impressive effort to come back like this at that point.

5km remaining from 156km

Former break riders Javier Megias Leal (Team Novo Nordisk) and Christopher Jones (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team) seem to have been caught by the peloton.

There are maybe 10-15 riders left in the Wiggins' main group.

Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Orica GreenEdge) attacks off the front of the break.

At the same time, that effort costs Jack Bobridge, who comes off the back of the leaders again.

3km remaining from 156km

It's blowing to pieces now on this climb. 

Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Orica GreenEdge) is still at the front, on his own, racing for the stage win.

Behind him, David De La Cruz Melgarejo (Team NetApp-Endura) is chasing in second.

Joe Dombrowski (Sky) pulls back Acevedo, so he's reabsorbed by the peloton.

At the front, Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Orica GreenEdge) is giving it his all for the stage... he has 15 seconds on his chaser.

Peter Stetina (BMC) tries to push the pace back in the peloton, which is at 1:30 behind the leader.

But Stetina can't get away.  Wiggins didn't respond, but he was able to close the slight gap that opened up.

Closing in on 1km to go, Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Orica GreenEdge) leads with 10 seconds.

In the peloton, Joe Dombrowski (Sky) is still giving it his all for Wiggins.  He's keeping the pace high and making it hard for rivals to attack his team leader.

Looks like Joe Dombrowski (Sky) is toasted and swings off. 

Now Bradley Wiggins is sitting on Rohan Dennis's wheel.  Peter Stetina is also in there as is Tiago Machado and Lawson Craddock

Break riders Tom Danielson (Garmin Sharp) and Jack Bobridge (Belkin Pro Cycling Team) are caught by the peloton.

1km to go for the Wiggins' group.  The race leader is at the front of his rivals, keeping the tempo high.

Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Orica GreenEdge) is soloing toward victory.

There's not much time to go, and it's likely that Wiggins has succeeded in defending his yellow jersey.

The Colombian Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Orica GreenEdge), who was in the break all day, takes the stage win.

David De La Cruz Melgarejo (Team NetApp-Endura) rolls in for second on his own.

Tom Danielson holds on for third.

Adam Yates finishes in fourth ahead of Bradley Wiggins in fifth.

Rohan Dennis finishes just a bit behind Wiggins.  We'll see if the official consider there to be a time gap between them.

Joe Dombrowski finishes up a big day at the office.

Brief results for the stage are
1. Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Orica GreenEdge 4:09:13
2. David De La Cruz Melgarejo (Spa) Team NetApp-Endura 0:00:13
3. Tom Danielson (USA) Garmin Sharp 0:00:41
4. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica GreenEdge 0:00:53
5. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky

Here's the top 10 for the GC after stage 6
1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky 22:03:42
2 Rohan Dennis (Aus) Garmin Sharp 0:00:30
3 Lawson Craddock (USA) Team Giant-Shimano 0:01:48
4 Tiago Machado (Por) Team NetApp-Endura 0:02:02
5 Adam Yates (GBr) Orica GreenEdge 0:02:14
6 Peter Stetina (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:02:30
7 Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Orica GreenEdge 0:02:39
8 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:03:01
9 Javier Alexis Acevedo Colle (Col) Garmin Sharp 0:03:05
10 David De La Cruz Melgarejo (Spa) Team NetApp-Endura 0:03:06

That wraps up our live coverage for stage 6 of the Tour of California.  We hope you'll join us again tomorrow for live coverage of stage 7 which will go 88.7 miles from Santa Clarita to Pasadena.  Tune for the start at 11:40 am local time.

And don't forget you can also join us earlier in the day for live coverage of the Giro d'Italia stage 8.

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