Wiggins closes in on win
Sir Bradley Wiggins took a significant step towards Tour of California victory after defending his race lead on a pivotal stage six.
The Brit prevailed as the day, and likely the entire general classification, came down to the arduous Mountain High summit finish.
Fifth across the line, Wiggins rode chief rival Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp) off his wheel in the final metres to extend his lead by two seconds on the toughest stage of the race, taking a large step towards overall victory in the process.
Adam Yates finished one place ahead of his compatriot after kick-starting the final acceleration, but it would be his Orica-GreenEdge team-mate Johan Esteban Chaves who celebrated a solo stage win. The Colombian attacked his breakaway companions with 4km to go and held out on the difficult climb, with attention quickly turned to the GC fight after Chaves had crossed the line.
Joe Dombrowski (Team Sky) produced one of the strongest rides of his pro career to support Wiggins until deep on the final climb. The American teamed up with Josh Edmondson to keep the pace high in a bid to stave off attacks from an ever-dwindling pack of contenders behind.
Eventually it was up to Wiggins and the yellow jersey ably drove for the line, finishing 53 seconds back on Chaves, but more crucially opening out his lead to 30 seconds with two stages remaining.
A tactical battle ensued from the off with a fight to get into the day's breakaway. Both Garmin-Sharp (Tom Danielson) and Orica-GreenEdge (Chaves) were among the teams to put riders into the move of six.
Team Sky gathered themselves and set about controlling the day as the race left Santa Clarita. The yellow jersey sat on the wheel of Christian Knees while up front Ian Boswell, Nathan Earle and Luke Rowe combined forces to peg and then trim the gap. Help finally came from Giant-Shimano in the build-up to the final ascent as the peloton slowly ate into the leaders.
The break fractured on the climb, while back in the pack Danny Pate, Knees, Edmondson and Dombrowski took it in turns to eat up the kilometres on the front.
Garmin-Sharp continued to ride tactically, sending a steady stream of attacks up the road in a bid to break up the rhythm. BMC Racing added weight to the workload on the front in a bid to set up Peter Stetina and eventually only five riders remained.
With 4km to go Chaves made the stage-winning move, while Wiggins hung tough to finish alongside his key rivals and tick off a big day in the fight for overall glory.