Muscat - Slovakia's Peter Sagan, riding for the Cannondale team, won Friday's Tour of Oman 173-kilometre fourth stage from Wadi Al Abiyad to Muscat to claim the overall lead.
Sagan, who inherits the leader's red jersey from Andre Greipel, prevailed in a sprint from Rigoberto Uran of Colombia and Italian rider Vincenzo Nibali.
Sagan, Uran and Nibali finished around two seconds up on a small group of pursuers comprising most of the race favourites, notably British Tour de France winner Chris Froome.
Froome, last year's winner in Oman, has an 18-second gap to make up on Sagan in the overall standings.
The Team Sky rider said: "We've got a title to defend and that's what I'll be doing."
Stage winner Sagan for his part reported: "It was really very important for my confidence to take such a difficult stage."
"I've already been placed second three times this year, it was about time I had a win."
He added: "My form is really very good and what pleases me more is the form of my teammates who were alongside me up the climbs.
"Today we had the best team."
The stage was marked by a long breakaway from Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet who led until the third climb of the day.
Saturday's fifth and penultimate stage takes the peloton on a 75km ride from Bidbid up to the Green Mountain summit of Jabal Al Akhdhar.
Results of the Tour of Oman fourth stage, a 173-kilometre ride from Wadi Al Abiyad to Muscat on Friday:
1. Peter Sagan (SVK/Cannondale) 4hr 02min 20sec,
2. Rigoberto Uran (COL) s.t.,
3. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) s.t.,
4. Daryl Impey (RSA) at 2s,
5. Tony Gallopin (FRA) s.t.,
6. Daniel Moreno (ESP) s.t.,
7. Francesco Gavazzi (ITA) s.t.,
8. Zdenek Stybar (CZE) s.t.,
9. Thomas Lovkvist (SWE) s.t.,
10. Moreno Moser (ITA) s.t., s.t.
1. Peter Sagan (SVK/Cannondale) 14hr 46min 44sec,
2. Rigoberto Uran (COL) at 10s,
3. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) at 14,
4. Tony Gallopin (FRA) at 17,
5. Daryl Impey (RSA) at 18,
6. Francesco Gavazzi (ITA) 18,
7. Roman Kreuziger (CZE) 18,
8. Christopher Froome (GBR) 18,
9. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) 18,
10. Robert Gesink (NED) 18.