Greater Palm Springs, Calif. - The Champion System Pro Cycling Team featured on the front of the peloton to help Chris Butler finish 20th on Monday's sweltering Stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California.
Riders lined up for another intensely hot day, with temperatures above 43 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit). The 200-kilometer stage featured nearly 3,000 meters of climbing, including an uphill finish into Greater Palm Springs.
Unlike much of the rest of the peloton, Taiwanese rider Kin San Wu said he actually enjoyed the hot days so far. The Hong Kong resident said racing in Thailand and other sub-tropical Asian locales - where temperatures climb to 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) - gives him a leg up on many of his competitors.
"For me I don't mind the heat," he said. "Forty to 45 Celsius is good for me. But today was really hard for the European riders."
Wu was the first rider to attack, immediately following the neutral start. Four riders - Scott Zwizanski (Optum presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies), Pat McCartney (Bissell Pro Cycling), Ben Jaques-Maynes (Jamis-Hagens Berman), Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) - followed, but it was Wu who eventually returned to the pack. The remaining escapees stayed out front for most of the race, building a gap of more than 11 minutes before the peloton started to reel them back.
Aiming to provide climbers Chad Beyer and Butler with the best position heading into the final climb, Champion System came to the front and helped the BMC Racing Team, NetApp-Endura and Saxo-Tinkoff bring back the break. This work among teams helped plummet the gap heading to the final climb.
Within the final 11 km, Champion System's Matthew Brammeier was seen driving the field, stretching the peloton into a long, single file line. Once the escapees were caught, new attacks mounted and an elite pack of climbers emerged heading to Greater Palm Springs. Butler was hoping to be a part of this bunch, but the heat had taken its toll.
"I just had nothing in the legs," Butler said. "It was incredibly hot. The slower you went, the worst it got and the longer the climb."
Champion System's General Manager Ed Beamon said he was impressed with how his riders handled the heat and helped control the peloton early in the race.
"The team actually did a good job," Beamon said. "We had guys on the front to make sure the break didn't get too far out there. The rest of the guys were doing a great job riding position. Butler just didn't climb well."
Javier Alexis Acevedo Colle (Jamis-Hagens Berman) soloed to the win ahead of Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team) and Philip Deignan (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling). The win moved Acevedo into the overall leader while Butler finished 4:09 behind. Beyer was 23rd, 5:07 behind.
Tuesday's Stage 3 runs from Palmdale to Santa Clarita and features roads never covered in the race's eight-year history. There will be more than 2,700 meters of climbing before a 30 km descent into Santa Clarita which is thought to guarantee a sprint finish.