Dumoulin attacked on a short rise with 10 kilometres to go, following a move by AG2R La Mondiale's Geoffrey Bouchard. He eventually dropped Bouchard and caught a struggling Alessandro De Marchi but never really had much of an advantage over the peloton.
While he knew that it would be difficult to get away at that point, Dumoulin said that he had been aiming for the win. It was also a test of the legs after he suffered a bad day on the summit finish of Jebel Hafeet on Tuesday.
"I just wanted to try and win the stage. I knew that it would be pretty impossible with an attack like that but I had a little go and, anyway, it was fun," Dumoulin told Cyclingnews at the finish.
"Yesterday I had a bad day and I tried to get a better feeling today and I succeeded. I had a much better feeling and it was fun to go on the attack."
Asked what it was that had been the problem on Jebel Hafeet, Dumoulin thought for a moment before smiling and saying, "I think I know what happened, but I'll keep that to myself."
Hoping for an opportunity on final mountain finish
Dumoulin will be hoping to keep out of trouble in any crosswinds during Thursday's sprint stage 5, after getting caught up in a crash on stage 2. If he continues to get better over the next couple of days than the 20km Jebel Jais will be a much better opportunity for him to take a stage win.
Dumoulin is currently 1:04 down in the overall classification and much less of a threat should he go on a late attack.
"If I start to feel better, if this day is promising for the next days, and I hope it is, then I might try something on the other climb. I'm quite far down on GC, so they could give me some space," Dumoulin said.
"It's long but it's very steady. I expect quite a big group to go into the final kilometres and then the attacks will come and there will be a GC fight. I expect maybe slightly less differences than on Jebel Hafeet."