Los Angeles – Former Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins retained the Tour of California overall lead as Colombia's Esteban Chaves won the sixth stage from Santa Clarita to Mountain High.
Wiggins, who took the lead with a triumph in the second stage individual time trial on Monday, finished fifth in the toughest stage of the race and extended his overall lead to 30 seconds going into the final two stages this weekend.
Orica rider Chavez powered solo to win the 152-kilometer stage that ended in the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles in a time of 4 hours 9 minutes 13 seconds.
On a day when temperatures again soared into the upper 30s Celsius (near 100 Fahrenheit), the Colombian climber attacked from a small group in the last five kilometers of the final ascent, putting some room between himself and David de la Cruz of Spain and American Tom Danielson.
De la Cruz finished second, 13 seconds back, and Danielson was third, 41 seconds adrift.
Briton Adam Yates was fourth, 53 seconds back, with Wiggins fifth in the same time.
“Surprisingly, I was pretty comfortable with four kilometers to go,” Wiggins said. “Then the altitude kicked in.”
He had enough left, however, to hold off his nearest rival in the overall classification, Australian Rohan Dennis.
Garmin's Dennis finished seventh, 55 seconds off the lead to surrender two seconds to Wiggins overall.
“We had Tommy D off the front, so we were watching what Sky was doing,” Dennis said.
“Hopefully, they were riding hard and they would just blow up like they did on Diablo. But it wasn't quite as steady an uphill, there was some downhill to recover. When we got to the last kilometer I don't think I've pedaled like that for awhile.”
The race continues Saturday with a 143-kilometer stage from Santa Clarita to Pasadena that features two significant climbs, with the final stretch all downhill.
The tour concludes on Sunday in Thousand Oaks, in rolling countryside west of Los Angeles. – Sapa-AFP