THOUSAND OAKS — Bradley Wiggins of Britain won the Tour of California on Sunday after holding the lead for the final week.
The 2012 Tour de France winner finished in the pack in 20th place in the eighth and final stage captured by compatriot Mark Cavendish. This was Wiggins’ first title since the seven-day Tour of Britain last September.
“I had an incredible team behind me,” said Wiggins, who last competed in the Tour of California in 2008 but withdrew because of illness. “They were there every day and without them I wouldn’t be in this position now. You can’t do it on your own.”
Wiggins, who rides for Sky, defeated Australia’s Rohan Dennis of Garmin-Sharp by 30 seconds in the 720-mile race that began May 11 in Sacramento. American Lawson Craddock of Giant-Shimano was third overall, 1 minute, 48 seconds behind.
Wiggins is a four-time Olympic track and road cycling gold medalist. It’s not clear if the 34-year-old cyclist will ride in the Tour de France, which begins July 5.
Wiggins moved into the lead after his dominating individual time trial in Stage 2. It was his first stage victory of the season.
“It’s always nice to wear a yellow jersey,” he said. “I set my sights on winning the Tour of California. I wanted to add my name to the guys who have gone before. At age 34, it’s still nice to be winning bike races.”
Cavendish, a 25-time Tour de France stage winner, won by a few inches for his second stage victory of the race. He completed the 76-mile leg in 2 hours, 53 minutes, 50 seconds.
The last stage featured three 21-mile circuits in Ventura County, each with a 910-foot ascent. The day ended with three 4.6-mile circuits around Westlake Village.
Germany’s John Degenkolb of Giant Shimano was second in the final stage and Slovakia’s Peter Sagan of Cannondale was third, both in the same time.
Nicki Terpstra of the Netherlands, who rides for Omega Pharma Quick-Step and won Paris-Roubaix in April, and Australia’s Jack Bobridge of Belkin held about a 90-second lead with 20 miles to go. But the duo was caught approaching the final three circuits.
American Lawrence Warbasse of BMC crashed twice early in the stage. The last time, he fell over a guardrail on a descent and abandoned the race.
The ninth annual event began with 128 riders competing on 16 teams. The race took the field on a north-to-south route and included three straight days of more than 100-degree temperatures. Thirteen riders didn’t complete the eighth stage.