Rohan Dennis won stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of...

Dennis wins stage 3 of Amgen Tour of California

Australian delivers victory for Garmin-Sharp on the Amgen Tour's first of two mountaintop finishes

Rohan Dennis won stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California Tuesday atop the hors categorie Mount Diablo climb. Dennis (Garmin-Sharp) jumped to the victory with a late attack in the 108-mile stage from San Jose.

Tiago Machado (NetApp-Endura) was second and Lawson Craddock (Giant-Shimano) was third.

“The start was the hardest. That last bit was probably the easiest,” said Dennis of his attack in the final kilometer. “Once you get a sniff of the line and you know you’ve got the legs to keep going, the pain is there but you seem to push through it. They always say, ‘white line fever’ and that came up for me today, I guess.”

On a day that temperatures soared into the 90s Fahrenheit, Bradley Wiggins (Sky) maintained his overall lead.

“This is the first time I have ridden in this type of heat in almost two years. It takes an adjustment. Actually, I am a bit knackered from it,” said Wiggins. “My mission was to be in a position to limit any losses and not explode. That is why I was riding tempo making sure no one got up the road.”

A group of eight escapees broke loose in the stage’s opening minutes: Maarten Wynants (Belkin), Jonathan Clarke (UnitedHealthcare), David Lozano (Novo Nordisk), Will Routley (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies), Luis Lemus (Jelly Belly-Maxxis), Paul Voss (NetApp-Endura), Robbie Squire (Jamis-Hagens Berman), and Ruben Zepuntke (Bissell Development).

The group took a maximum lead of almost seven minutes, but with Mount Diablo looming, the Sky-led peloton began cutting into the gap. With 30 miles to go, the escapees’ advantage was down to five minutes.

Routley dropped off the escape following the day’s intermediate sprint, leaving seven riders to push on for the right-hand corner marking the beginning of the finish climb. They rolled onto the early, low-angle slopes, roughly 10 miles from the summit, with 2:30.

Wynants drove the pace up front, splitting the breakaway and springing a lead foursome with Voss, Squire, and Lemus with 9.5 miles to go. The latter, the Mexican national champion, soon attacked and dropped Wynants and Voss, leaving two U.S.-based third-division riders on the front.

Michael Schär and Taylor Phinney drove the pace in the peloton for BMC Racing, cutting the gap to 1:10 with eight miles remaining.

Voss, whom Lemus attacked following a big turn on the front, clawed back to the two leaders. Behind them, Sky took control of the peloton with two riders in front of the yellow-clad Wiggins. Soon, though, the 2012 Tour de France champion was the lone Sky rider at the head of the bunch.

“The boys did a good job in this heat,” said Wiggins. “I was alone about the last 8Ks, I think.”

With the gap down to 30 seconds, Squire attacked with 4.4 miles to go, but Lemus clawed back onto the American’s wheel. The Mexican champion countered Squire and Wiggins pulled the peloton past the Jamis rider with 3.4 miles to go.

Moments later, the breakaway was finished, a line of roughly 20 riders spread behind Wiggins.

With 2.3 miles to go, Carter Jones (Optum) attacked, leaving Wiggins and Co. behind. The recent winner of the Tour of the Gila couldn’t slip the Sky captain’s grip, however, and was back in the bunch with one mile to go.

Janier Acevedo (Garmin-Sharp) wound it up and attacked from the back of the group with .8 miles to go, but got nowhere. The surges whittled the lead group down to roughly 10 riders.

Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) jumped with 500 meters to go. Dennis and Peter Stetina (BMC Racing) followed, leaving Wiggins behind, and when Yates slowed, Dennis came around to take the victory.

“I knew after the effort he [Wiggins] did he wouldn’t be able to punch and win the stage,” said Dennis. “I was waiting and hoping the attacks would start at 5K or 3K to go, actually. But Bradley knew it had to go hard then to make people think twice about going.”

Craddock came through third to extend his lead in the best young rider’s classification.

“Wiggins set a hard tempo the whole time, which is a little better for me because I’m not good at the accelerations and slowing down,” said Craddock. “I knew that with a finishing pitch it was better to save a little bit of energy and then give it your all.”

The Amgen Tour of California continues Wednesday with the 103-mile fourth stage, from Monterey to Cambria.