Luis Leon Sanchez of Astana launched a trademark late break to win stage four of the Tour of the Alps on Thursday as the race enters its final stage on Friday.
French climber Thibaut Pinot kept his overall lead.
Sky’s four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome is also well placed after coming tenth on the stage. The Briton is just 16 seconds adrift of FDJ leader Pinot in the overall standings ahead of Friday’s intriguing finale.
Italy’s Domenico Pozzovivo and Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno are second and third overall, with Froome fourth as he continues his preparations for next month’s Giro d’Italia.
The Astana team dominated the final climb in this 134km run from Chiusa in Italy to Lienz in Austria before a steep descent and a 2km run for the line where Sanchez made his move.
The Spaniard created enough of a gap to win by six seconds ahead of Kiwi George Bennett of LottoNL-Jumbo and his Dutch teammate Koen Bouwman.
“In the final I knew I had to attack to win the stage,” Sanchez said.
“I did it a few times, on the downhill and later inside the last two kilometres. The second time it worked well, and I could get a small gap, enough to win.
“I am happy with this victory since it gives me motivation and confirms I am in the right place for the Giro.”
‘Taster for the Giro d’Italia’
The race finishes on Friday after a 164km run from Rattenberg to Innsbruck which features a series of climbs, one of which peaks 12km from home before a 6km descent and a 6km dash for victory.
Although Froome is using this week to hone his form for next month’s Giro, the Briton hinted he could be among the men to watch when overall victory is decided on Friday.
“The GC [general classification] is still very tight – with less than 20 seconds between the top four on GC,” Froome told teamsky.com.
“It’s a bit of a taster of what we’ll see at the Giro. You can read a bit into where people are at at the moment.
“Thibaut seems to be in great shape, Aru seems to be on the way up. [Domenico] Pozzovivo is right there and Astana have got a really strong team.
“I think it’s a little taster for what’s to come – but obviously there are going to be quite a few other names that come into play once we hit the Giro.”