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Tadej Pogacar maintained his lead in the UAE Tour by keeping closest challenger Adam Yates at bay in Thursday's fifth stage, won by Denmark's Jonas Vingegaard.
Reigning Tour de France champion Pogacar finished three seconds behind Vingegaard and just ahead of Briton Yates, who now sits 45 seconds behind the Slovene in the general classification.
The road now seems clear for the UAE Emirates rider to claim the overall title on Saturday.
"I'm glad I've retained the lead but I'll stay focused in the next two days," said Pogacar. "There are no more mountains, but I haven't won the UAE Tour yet."
To take the fifth stage, Vingegaard imitated his usual Jumbo-Visma team leader Primoz Roglic, who lost last year's Tour de France to countryman Pogacar on the penultimate stage.
Vingegaard attacked at the highest point of the week-long race, at an altitude of 1,489 metres, just one kilometre from the finish to deny Kazakh Alexey Lutsenko.
Lutsenko's dream of victory vanished 250 metres from the finish line in the rocky setting of the Hajar Mountains, very close to the border with Oman.
It was Vingegaard's second success on the World Tour circuit after a stage of the 2019 Tour of Poland.
"It's a very big victory for me, as I'm usually in the service of Primoz," said the 24-year-old.
Friday's penultimate stage is a 168-kilometre charge from Dubai to the artificial island of Palm Jumeirah.