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Wiggins lead cut in California

Sir Bradley Wiggins saw his race lead cut to 24 seconds at the Tour of California after rival Rohan Dennis jumped clear on stage three.

The Team Sky rider set a fierce tempo up the final Mt. Diablo climb to thin out the bunch in the closing stages, but without team-mates found himself exposed to attacks on the steep ramp up to the line.

Nearest challenger Dennis (Garmin-Sharp) jumped clear to take the stage win and claw back 20 seconds on the yellow jersey, reducing the gap to 24 seconds with five stages remaining.

Team Sky had committed fully to the cause on a sweltering stage, placing the entire team on the front of the peloton to chase down the breakaway with the yellow jersey safely ensconced in the line.

With six kilometres remaining Wiggins hit the front, cutting a composed figure as he set an impressive tempo, spinning a lower gear than his rivals and thinning the bunch to just 11 riders under the flame rouge.

Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) was the first to hit out inside the final kilometre but was overhauled by Dennis, who took the win by six seconds over Tiago Machado (NetApp-Endura) and a further two seconds on Lawson Craddock (Giant-Shimano).

Game on

"It doesn't get much hotter than in a race and my biggest concern today was just exploding," Wiggins told TeamSky.com. "I was drinking all day and the boys were just incredible. They rode all stage and minimised the break.

"Then on the last climb I just wanted to ride a good tempo and avoid all the accelerations. I did that and then it was just about getting to the top at the end. It was difficult to know who was in the group riding on the front. That was probably the only mistake I made as Rohan Dennis took a little bit of time. I perhaps underestimated that he'd be there so we just need to keep a closer eye on him on the next ones."

Wiggins headed into the 174.5km stage with an advantage of 44 seconds following a towering ride in Monday's time trial test around Folsom.

The sweltering heat would play a big factor on the day and as the race left San Jose a sizeable group of eight riders went away on the approach to the first climb of Mt Hamilton.

Team Sky declared themselves happy with the break and settled into a rhythm as they set a tempo on the front in service of Wiggins, allowing the gap to touch seven minutes.

That margin was slashed to three minutes by the time the race headed into the national park where an increase in pace saw fresh teams and riders hit the front leading onto the 17km climb.

Team Sky wrestled back the initiative from BMC Racing through Josh Edmondson before Wiggins took over with the remainder of the peloton lined out behind him.