Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) came into the queen stage of the Tour of Oman as possibly the rider in the best position to take out the overall title. However the Basque rider had to settle for third place in the standings after a concerted effort from the Astana team put him on the ropes.
Bahrain-Merida and Astana showed their intentions early in the race, with both putting riders on the front of the bunch. They allowed the day's break to have a significant advantage but ensured that the last of the escapees were swept up with a little more than three kilometres to go.
It was then Astana putting on the hurt. Izagirre was initially able to stay with them but was then left behind by a second surge in pace. He chased hard in the final kilometre but did not have enough to make up the time that he had lost.
"We started very fast. Astana put on very high speed. It was a hard climb for me," Izagirre said after the stage. "I raced my own rhythm. In the final bit, I went really hard because I had been passed by Jesus [Herrada]. But, anyway, I am third in the general classification. All is good and I'm happy."
With Jesus Herrada (Cofidis) nabbing the final bonus seconds for third place on the stage, Izagirre came close to losing out on the podium altogether, but he will enter the final stage with a two-second gap over his compatriot and former teammate.
It has been a solid start to the season for Izagirre, with seventh overall at the Tour Down Under last month. With Paris-Nice - where he finished fourth overall in 2017, just around the corner, Izagirre says that he's pleased with how his form is developing.
"I am happy and content. It's a really good race for me and I really like it so I'm happy," he said. "It is a hard climb, it's very steep and, for me, it wasn't so good but I am in very good condition."