sport

Froome takes Tour of Oman lead

Chris Froome took the overall Tour of Oman lead as Joaquim Rodriguez won stage four with a decisive attack on the climb to the summit finish.

Rodriguez reeled in an earlier move from Alberto Contador on the Green Mountain, before bursting clear himself to cross the line four seconds ahead of Team Sky's Froome.

With general classification rivals Cadel Evans and Contador finishing a further 18 and 23 second further back, the Briton takes the red jersey from Peter Sagan, who was dropped, and now leads Evans by 24 seconds overall.

Just as important as moving to the top of the GC, however, was the way in which he stayed close to Rodriguez's wheel and also left Contador trailing.

The Spanish duo are the most explosive climbers of the current generation and they repeatedly distanced Froome on the summit finishes at last year's Vuelta a Espana. His performance today suggests that gap has been bridged, underlining his credentials as a genuine contender for overall victory at the Tour de France.

It was also a huge statement of intent from Rodriguez, who has made a dramatic return to form after finishing 26 minutes down on the winner at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina only two-and-a-half weeks ago.

The win also comes a day before the Court of Arbitration for Sport rules on an appeal from his Russian team, Katusha, against being denied a 2013 WorldTour licence by the International Cycling Union.

If, as is expected, the appeal is thrown out, Rodriguez will need to secure a move to a new, licensed team or face the prospect of missing out on a place at the Tour de France.

He is unlikely to be short of suitors after an emphatic display on the Green Mountain, which is around 10km in length and came at the end of a 152.5km day that started in Al Saltiyah In Samail.

Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) was the first to show, darting off the front of the bunch after a five-man breakaway group had been caught on the lower slopes.

Italy's Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) quickly followed, while a second chase group containing Froome, Rodriguez, Evans (BMC) and the Italian super-climber Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) also set off in pursuit.

Pozzovivo couldn't keep up the pace, but the remaining three riders bridged to Contador and Nibali as the race favourites all came back together.

But as he so often did at last year's Vuelta, Rodriguez mounted a fresh attack that proved too much for all but Froome, whose valiant fight to get back on to the Spaniard's wheel was enough to hand him the red jersey.

Earlier on the climb, previous wearer Sagan was dropped, bringing to an end the Slovakian's two-day dominance of the race.