The race was decided when Peter Sagan attacked on the penultimate climb and held off the chasing peloton, while in the bunch sprint for the remaining podium places, Kristoff was edged out by Michael Matthews (Australia) and Ramunas Navardauskas (Lithuania).
"I got fourth but they went quite hard, quite early so from the start I know that it would be quite difficult because with the climbs so close to the finish it was also going be hard and with a guy like Sagan you know that he can stay away," Kristoff told Cyclingnews at the finish.
Norway came into the race with a team of six riders - all of whom were dedicated to Kristoff – and when Sagan attacked on 23rd street Kristoff's teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen attempted to counter with Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium). The pair were unable catch the Slovakian rider with Van Avermaet later complained about Boasson Hagen's lack of collaboration but Kristoff defended his teammate's actions.
"When Sagan went away he kept the gap and you saw that riders could do that in the U23 race. We tried to neutralise that by sending up Edvald but in the end Sagan was too strong and took the victory."
Boasson Hagen and Van Avermaet crested the top of 23rd Street a handful of second down on Sagan but with the Norwegian holding back through team orders they were swamped before the finishing climb to the line.
"He was supposed to not work but then maybe if he had caught Sagan they would have stopped working. It’s all easy to say afterwards but he was told to follow the attacks and not to work. Then he could win the sprint from the front or I could try and win from the back."
With the victory out of their grasp Norway were forced to fight for the remaining medals and Kristoff came into the sprint well positioned. However after such a gruelling race he admitted that he simply lacked the freshness in his legs to secure a medal.
"I wasn't close when the attacks came, and I was just trying to stay in the group. In the sprint I took the wheel of Gilbert and I started with 150 meters to go but I just couldn't hold it. It was a lack of power."