One year is a long time to think about three seconds. Julian Alaphilippe would rather ponder 16 seconds for two days.
While Rohan Dennis powered to a 16-second individual time-trial win, Alaphilippe of France on Friday retained his overall race lead in Folsom for the fourth day in the overcast and intermittently windy Stage 6 of the Amgen Tour of California.
Dennis, 25, the Australian who rides for BMC and whose time trial win in last year’s Tour de France was the fastest in the race’s history, completed the 12.4-mile flat circuit in 24 minutes, 16 seconds at an average speed of 31.18 mph.
Alaphilippe, 23, an Etixx-QuickStep rider who lost the event last year to Peter Sagan by three seconds when the Slovakian gained bonus time after finishing third in the final stage by the width of a tire, placed eighth. But his surprising effort – he was the last of 140 riders on the course – was only 45 seconds slower than Dennis’ finish. It allowed Alaphilippe to keep the race lead he took after winning the Stage 3 mountaintop finish near Santa Barbara.
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After beginning Stage 6 with a 22-second lead over Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafedo) of Santa Rosa, Alaphilippe now leads Dennis by 16 seconds with two days left of the 782-mile race. Brent Bookwalter, the race leader’s teammate, is third overall, trailing by 38 seconds after finishing fifth in Stage 6.
Several hours earlier, Twenty16-Ridebiker, paced by world time trial titlists Kristin Armstrong and Chloe Dygert, powered to a six-second win Friday over Boels-Dolmans in Stage 2, the women’s team time trial.
Megan Guarnier, the leader of the Boels-Dolmans squad who claimed Stage 1 in South Lake Tahoe, retained her race lead. The reigning national road titlist leads Armstrong, who moved into second place, by 12 seconds. Evelyn Stevens, Guarnier’s teammate, is third overall, 22 seconds behind with two of the women’s race’s four stages remaining.
“It was nice on the way out, a nice tailwind, but on the way back it was a bit blowy,” said Dennis, who began the stage trailing by 1:01. “I had to keep telling myself to keep my head down and try to stay as aero as possible.”
“I knew I had to go out fast and save maybe 1 or 2 percent for the end. It’s 16 seconds and it’s not over, but it’s going to be hard.”
Roseville’s Neilson Powless (Axeon Hagens Berman), the event’s youngest entrant at 19, is fifth overall. After finishing 10th in Stage 6, he trails Alaphilippe by 1:08. El Dorado Hills’ Evan Huffman (Rally), who finished second in Stage 2, is 83rd overall. Huffman placed 120th in Stage 6.
Great Britain’s Bradley Wiggins (WIGGINS), who won the time trial stage in Folsom en route to his overall race victory in 2014, finished 3:41 behind after his aerobar extensions broke early in the time trial.
The eight-day men’s race continues today with a 109.1-mile road race Stage 7 beginning and ending in Santa Rosa. The route has six climbs and likely will present the last chance to challenge Alaphilippe before Sunday’s flat finale in Sacramento.
The four-day women’s race also continues today with Stage 3, a 69-mile road race also starting and finishing in Santa Rosa.
Twenty16-Ridebiker, the 16th of 18 teams negotiating the 20.3-kilometer course, rode strongly from the start. Armstrong, who claimed the 2009 world ITT title, and Dygert, who captured the junior ITT title last September in Richmond, Va., powered the six-rider squad to the best provisional intermediate time, 12 seconds faster than UnitedHealthcare. But Boels-Dolmans then shattered the halfway time by six seconds.
“We didn’t get any time check until about 4 kilometers to go,” said Armstrong, who finished third in the opening stage. “We just had to give it everything we had, and our team rode well together.”
Paced by former world titlist Linda Villumsen, Coryn Rivera and Katie Hall, United Healthcare posted the best time with four teams still on the course. A few minutes later, Twenty16-Ridebiker crossed the line and then waited for the remaining two squads to finish.
“We went out there, and we did our best,” Guarnier. “It was all you could ask for in this or any time trial. We’ve been talking it day by day. We’ll have a meeting and see what’s best. But I am proud. It’s a team, and I couldn’t have done a team time trial without them.”