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Slovakia's Peter Sagan of the Cannondale team won a second consecutive stage on the Tour of Oman on Wednesday to strengthen his grip on the overall race leader's red jersey.
Sagan emerged victorious on the 190km third stage from Nakhal Fort to Wadi Dayqah Dam in the Hajar mountains.
In the same spot where he claimed his first win for Cannondale a year ago, Sagan beat Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet of BMC and France's Tony Gallopin of RadioShack to take victory on the line by one second with Alberto Contador a close fourth.
Sagan, who won three stages on last year's Tour de France, sits 16 seconds ahead of Gallopin in the overall standings but knows he faces a tough hilly fourth stage where Italian Vincenzo Nibali triumphed last year.
"Tomorrow (Thursday), the victory will be for someone else, not for me," he said after receiving the leaders red jersey as well as the green for points and white for best young rider.
A strong field in Oman is headed by last year's Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, and also features his Sky team-mate Chris Froome, as well as the likes of Tom Boonen, Cadel Evans, Fabian Cancellara and Contador.
Saxo rider Contador is expected to battle with Nibali amongst others for stage four honours and the race remains wide open with Britain's Froome and Australian Evans also still in with a chance.
However Wiggins' appears out of the running now after losing 1min 37sec on stage three while last year's winner, Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez also lost 59secs in his faltering defence.
The British Olympic champion is now a distant 3min 29sec adrift in the overall standings and facing a monumental challenge to get back amongst the leaders.
Thursday's fourth stage is a 152.5km ride through the mountains from Al Satiyah to the finish line at the peak of a stiff climb at Jabal Al Akhdar.
The six-stage race concludes on Saturday.