Los Angeles - Former Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins maintained the overall lead after the third stage of the Tour of California which was won by Australian Rohan Dennis on Tuesday.
Team Sky's Wiggins, who dominated the second stage time trial in Folsom, now has a 24 second overall lead on Dennis with five stages remaining in the race.
Dennis, of Garmin-Sharp, powered his way through hot and mountainous conditions Tuesday to complete the 174km road course from San Jose, California, to Mount Diablo in four hours, 56 minutes and two seconds.
Wiggins took the lead with about six kilometres to go but Dennis jumped clear of the pack in the final kilometre to take the victory in sweltering conditions where the temperatures reached about 33 degrees Celsius.
Wiggins said he was satisfied with his finish in the tough conditions.
"It doesn't get much hotter in a race and my biggest concern today was just exploding," the Brit said. "On the last climb I just wanted to ride a good tempo. I did that and then it was just about getting to the top at the end."
Wiggins, who followed up his 2012 Tour de France triumph by winning Olympic time trial gold in London, finished the third stage in ninth place, 20 seconds adrift of Dennis.
Portugal's Tiago Machado was second in the stage which finished with a seven kilometre climb up Mount Diablo. American Lawson Craddock was third, two seconds behind Machado and eight seconds back of the leader.
"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 said.
"Hopefully today was about as hard as it should get for the boys. I think the next two days should, fingers crossed, be a bit more straightforward."
Omega Pharma rider Mark Cavendish said he was glad the day was over.
"Grim day in the mountains. Whoever wants to do a 30km climb is either lying or sick," he said.
Dennis is second overall, 24 seconds behind Wiggins while Machado is third, 65 seconds back.
The Tour of California continues on Wednesday with the 166km scenic fourth stage from Monterey to Cambria on the Pacific coast.Results on Tuesday in the Tour of California third stage, 174.5km from San Jose to Mount Diablo State Park:
1. Rohan Dennis (AUS/Garmin) 4hr 56min 02sec
2. Tiago Machado (POR) at 6sec
3. Lawson Craddock (USA) at 8
4. Adam Yates (GBR) at 11
5. Janier Acevedo (COL) at 11
Also: 9. Bradley Wiggins (GBR) at 20
Overall standings after 3 of 8 stages
Bradley Wiggins (GBR/Sky) 10:03:57
2. Rohan Dennis (AUS) at 24sec
3. Tiago Machado (POR) at 1:05
4. Lawson Craddockat (USA) 1:21
5. Adam Yates (GBR) at 2:10