Phinney wins stage 5 of the Amgen Tour of California

American attacks from the day's final descent to take a solo stage victory in Santa Barbara

Taylor Phinney won stage 5 of the Amgen Tour of California Thursday in Santa Barbara.

Phinney (BMC Racing) attacked on the descent from the San Marcos Pass climb to take a long-range solo victory in the 107-mile stage from Pismo Beach.

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) was second and Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) was third.

“I think it’s a really special win, the way I happened to do it today,” said Phinney. “Sometimes, the stars kind of align and you’re able to do cool things like that. I did it last year in Poland (at the Tour de Pologne —Ed.). It’s sort of my style. It’s really, really painful. I suffer a lot, but it’s worth at the end of the day.”

Bradley Wiggins (Sky) defended his overall lead with three days of racing remaining. With road-level temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the 2012 Tour de France champion described the stage as the hottest he’d ever ridden.

“It was like being in an oven. Everyone felt it I think today,” said Wiggins. “That was a tough one. But the speeds were quite high so we weren’t out there for a long time, three hours only for the stage. It was certainly the hottest day I’ve ever experienced on the bike.”

Phinney jumped free of the peloton 20km from the finish, on the descent of the Cat. 1 climb.  Sagan’s Cannondale team chased hard, but could not close the gap to the former individual pursuit world champion.

“I wasn’t planning on attacking at the top; if anything, I was planning on attacking with 4 or 5km to go,” said Phinney. “I just saw how the group was and the way that Cannondale was kind of isolated. Sagan was isolated. (John) Degenkolb was dropped, Cav [Mark Cavendish] was dropped. I just kind of went on instinct and went for it.”

Lucas Euser (UnitedHealthcare) tried to bridge across to Phinney in the final 5km, but wasn’t able to shake the group.

The American passed under the 1km to go banner with 15 seconds and held off a chasing group of roughly 20 riders for a 12-second win.

“There’s only one time in cycling when I have an advantage, and it’s when we’re riding downhill,” said Phinney. “I weigh a lot more than everyone else and I was able just to pull away, just tuck and pull and away and tuck. When I got to bottom I had a sizable gap, but I wasn’t convinced it was a very smart move until I got close to the finish and saw that my gap was constant. I never looked back.”

The Amgen Tour continues Friday with the 94-mile sixth stage, from Santa Clarita to the hors categorie finish climb at Mountain High.