Bradley Wiggins celebrates winning the yellow jersey for first place in the Amgen Tour of California second stage individual time trial. Photo: Steve Yeater

Folsom - British rider Bradley Wiggins, the 2012 Tour de France winner and Olympic time trial gold medalist, powered to a 44-second victory in the Stage 2 individual time trial Monday to take the race lead at the Tour of California.

Wiggins (SKY), the 98th rider in the field of 128, completed the flat 20 kilometre course in 23 minutes and 18 seconds at an average speed of 51.5 kph.

Australia's Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp) was second in 24:02, with American Taylor Phinney (BMC) third in 24:10.

Wiggins leads the eight-day race by 44 seconds over Dennis and 52 seconds over Phinney.

“I'm in really good shape,” Wiggins said. “I'm a bit ahead of where I was in 2012 for the Tour de France. “So far, so good. You have to plan your races and so far it's been better than I planned.”

Alison Powers of the United States (UnitedHealthcare) claimed the earlier 20-rider women's time trial, held on the same course, in 27:40.

Mark Cavendish of Britain (Omega Pharma Quick-Step), who held the first-day lead after his sprint win in Stage 1, finished 27th in Stage 2.

Phinney, who was a co-favourite in the stage, fell behind quickly at the halfway time check and couldn't make up time.

“I thought I could have done better, but I not really a hot weather rider,” Phinney said. “But I did the best as I could and that's what it is all about. So I have to be satisfied.”

Wiggins hadn't ridden in the Tour of California since 2008. But instead of racing in the Giro d'Italia, Wiggins focused on the US event in the preparation for the Tour de France.

“It was a really fast course,” Wiggins said. “I take it one day at a time. It will be a tough day tomorrow in the heat.”

The eight-day race continues Tuesday with the 174.5 kilometre San Jose to Mt. Diablo road race. The estimated 1160 kilometre event continues through Sunday in Thousand Oaks.