Jabal Al Akhdar (Oman) (AFP) - Britain's Tour de France champion Christopher Froome moved a step closer to retaining his Tour of Oman crown on Saturday when he took the overall lead after winning the fifth stage.
The 28-year-old Kenyan-born rider took over from Friday's fourth-stage winner, Slovakia's Peter Sagan, at the head of the overall standings.
Froome came home ahead of American Tejay van Garderen and Colombian Rigoberto Uran on the stage which finished at Jabal Al Akhdar, on the side of the Green Mountain.
The Team Sky leader is 26 seconds clear of Van Garderen ahead of Sunday's final stage, which finishes on the Corniche at Muscat.
"I am really very, very happy because it was an extremely difficult climb and to win this stage means you always also take a huge psychological advance on the others," said Froome.
"The goal today (Saturday) was to see where I was in terms of race fitness.
"I got positive answers to my questions. It is an agreeable feeling to be ahead of schedule so early in the season.
Froome, though, said that it was too early to draw any conclusions as to the defence of his Tour title.
"To win here has merely psychological value more than anything else," he said.
"The Tour is still a long way away. But morale-wise with regard to the competition, it is true that does me good."