The Italian holds the lead by four seconds, and needs to prevent those closest to him in GC from taking the time bonuses on stage five

Quick-Step Floors sprinter Elia Viviani is ready to “play the game” tomorrow as he anticipates his closest rivals for the Dubai Tour GC trying to find ways to wrestle the jersey from his shoulders.

The Italian placed sixth on the steep uphill finish to Hatta Dam on the race’s penultimate stage. That was enough to preserve a lead of two seconds over Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana) and four seconds over Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) who finished the fourth stage second and first respectively.

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Saturday’s race is likely to end in a bunch sprint as it is very flat and only 129km. But with a 10 second time bonus for the win Colbrelli, and Cort Nielsen are at the head of a queue of riders that are within striking distance, including French fast-man Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Belgian Nathan Van Hooydonck (BMC).

Viviani took the race lead on Thursday after the previous leader, Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo), received a 20 second time penalty for drafting cars after a mechanical. 29-year-old Viviani also won a stage of the race in the sprint finish on stage two.

Viviani said: “We started this morning with four seconds on Mark Cavendish and the main goal is to have more seconds on the pure sprinters. It’s better to now have four seconds on Cort Neilsen than it is to have four seconds on Cav or [Marcel] Kittel because tomorrow they can potentially beat me.”

If the former Sky rider is able to maintain his lead tomorrow it will be his biggest general classification victory.

He added: “At the moment I’m happy to have two seconds on Cort Nielsen and Colbrelli and play the game tomorrow.”

The Giro stage winner seemed to have been confident of keeping the jersey that he picked up on Thursday, despite the tough climb to the finish.

“I felt pretty good on the climb so I said to the guys to try and close the gap [to the breakaway] and you saw Terpstra and Lampaert were pulling full gas because that gap was too much time,” he said.