The hilly stage was always going to be a tough balancing act for the teams of the sprinters with the climbs of the day hard enough to drop the fast men if the better climbers decided to drive the pace. That sort of aggression never eventuated and the main challenge of the day proved to be reeling in the early breakaway.
In the early stages, it was Tinkoff who took control of the pace-making for race leader Peter Sagan, but in the final 40 kilometres it was mostly Katusha and BMC who decided to come to the fore to reduce the 4'30 time gap at that stage. The climbs saw that gap steadily reduced, whilst some daredevil descending from the leaders allowed them to go faster than the more unwieldy main bunch down the run-in to the finish.
The break's advantage was seemingly being kept in hand, but in the end the peloton miscalculated the strength of King and Huffman, who had plenty of time to fight it out for the win. Huffman decided to lead it out with 200 metres to go and it was really a test of strength into the finish as King was able to claw his way over the top of Huffman for the win.
King had been building into his season slowly after breaking his fibula in a training crash and the Tour of California was the first race where he could return to top form after having to race with little to no fitness during the classics season. The win here will no doubt please both his American team and sponsors, who have brought a strong squad to the race, with ambitions to match.
Alexander Kristoff won the sprint behind for third, with former race leader Sagan in fourth after his team went missing late in the stage.