Luke Rowe says he was left "frustrated" at the finish of Saturday's semi-Classic Omloop Het Nieuwsblad after taking fourth place, but added he was "happy" to mix it with riders like Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) as he initiated the race's decisive breakaway.
The Team Sky man attacked on the Taaienberg cobbled climb with around 60km to go, and was quickly followed by the race's eventual winner Van Avermaet and young Belgian talent Tiesj Benoot.
World Champion Sagan was not far behind in joining them, and the four eventually formed a cohesive breakaway which, after being joined by Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale) who had been ahead in the day's initial break, made it to the finish.
Rowe's work eventually took it's toll though, as he was unable to put in enough of a sprint to overcome Benoot just ahead, as Van Avermaet stormed to the victory and Sagan followed him in.
The Britain was ultimately satisfied with his showing in the race among a number of big names, despite the exasperation in finishing narrowly outside the top three.
"I did the best I could to be at the front on the Taaienberg, and after the move had gone it was a matter of us getting our heads down and trying to hold on to the finish. Everyone committed and we managed to do that," Rowe told the Team Sky website.
"I gave it everything I had in the sprint, but on a finish like that it's the strongest rider on the day who wins. I didn't make any technical errors, but when I got out of the saddle I just didn't have any more to give. After a hard race that's sometimes the way it goes. Your saw the same with Sagan, you'd normally back him to beat Van Avermaet, but that unpredictability is what makes the Classics special.
"I'm frustrated I missed out on a podium, but happy to have been in the thick of the action against some massive names. It'll give me plenty of confidence moving forward."
It was a rare occasion for the Brit to flex his muscles in a leadership role with Sky, as Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas have taken priority in past Classics, but Rowe showed he's building on his eighth place finish in Paris-Roubaix last year and has impressed the team's management.
"We're really happy," said Sports Director Servais Kernaven on Rowe's efforts. "It would have been nice for Luke to be on the podium - it's a pity he's not - but that's how it goes sometimes and he rode a really good race.
"If you look at it, the four strongest guys attacked on the Taaienberg and no one could bring them back. Every year something happens on that climb as it's one of the only ones where you can make a big difference. Luke was in the right place at the right time."
Rowe will line-up again on Sunday for the second one-day Classic of the weekend, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, where he'll work for Italian sprinter Elia Viviani. Belgian team Etixx-QuickStep will probably be looking for some more success in Kuurne too, after they failed to bring the break back in Het Nieuwsblad to set things up for Tom Boonen.
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