Having previously warned that the Tour de France Stage 1 finish in Seraing would be "too steep" for him to succeed, Philippe Gilbert (BMC) charged into fourth place behind winner Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale).
There was much speculation as to what could be expected from BMC, after Gilbert won a similar stage on the opening day of the Tour last year, while 2011 overall winner Cadel Evans was also capable of a strong finish on the rolling parcours and was already 10 seconds in arrears to GC rival Bradley Wiggins (Sky) following Saturday's prologue.
Gilbert, who hails from nearby Remouchamps, fought hard to maintain his position in the swarming and nervous peloton in the blustery conditions.
"At 23 km to go, someone touched my wheel and I thought I was going to crash," he said. "I stayed up, but lost a lot of places. Then I dug deep to come back in the final two kilometers and took some risks in the last descent. It's a bit of a pity because I finally won the bunch sprint, but it wasn't for the win."
It was Gilbert's second-best result of the season, after a third place at Flèche Wallonne and fourth on Stage 5 of the Tour of Belgium.
Meantime, Evans was able to stay out of trouble and was the next-best finisher for the team in 20th position across the finish line in the bunch. He remains in 8th place on general classification.
Marcus Burghardt did much of the early work while George Hincapie towed him up to fifth wheel as the climb began three kilometres from the finish.
"As it was it was, it was a headwind, which makes it easy for everyone to stay on your wheel," Evans said. "But the team is working well and functioning well and I'm glad to get one road stage done and the routine going."
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