Los Angeles – Taylor Phinney won the fifth stage of the Tour of California as Bradley Wiggins retained the overall lead after the 174-kilometre stage from Pismo Beach to Santa Barbara.
BMC's Phinney attacked on the descent from the San Marcos Pass climb to take a long-range solo victory 12 seconds ahead of his pursuers led by Cannondale rider Peter Sagan.
Slovakia's Sagan took the sprint for second ahead of Orica rider Matthew Goss of Australia.
“I'm from Colorado, but I spend a lot of time in Santa Barbara and I've done that descent many times,” Phinney, a former US time trial champion, told Cyclingnews.com. “It's always special to win, but to win like that is the best way.”
Wiggins, Britain's 2012 Tour de France winner, went into the stage with a 28-second lead over Australian Rohan Dennis and emerged with that lead intact after he and his closest rivals finished in the chasing group.
Team Sky sports director Servais Knaven told TeamSky.com that he was pleased with the performance in a stage on which temperatures again reached into the upper 30s Celsius.
A six-man break was swept up on the early slopes of the first-category ascent, with some 40 riders in the bunch as they crossed the summit before Phinney made his brave move.
“It was a pretty hard one, especially with the speed they went up it and a lot of guys got dropped,” Knaven said, adding that he expected a similar scenario to unfold on Friday's sixth stage, which takes the riders 152 kilometers from Santa Clarita to Mountain High in the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles.
“We'll be looking to make sure Brad saves as much energy as possible before riding hard on the long climb to the summit. He's in great form at the moment and we're really impressed with how he's performing.”
The race concludes on Sunday in Thousand Oaks, in rolling countryside west of Los Angeles. – Sapa-AFP