Max Stedman underlined his general classification credentials on stage two of the Tour of Britain on Monday.
The Canyon Eisberg climber finished 22nd as Cameron Meyer clinched victory in the 174.9km charge from Cranbrook to Barnstaple.
Meyer, who rides for Mitchelton-SCOTT, emerged from the day’s breakaway to outgun an elite group of eight rivals at the finish.
Stedman, 22, was in a select bunch of 23 who arrived just 49 seconds after Meyer, who beat Harry Tanfield to Commonwealth Games time trial glory earlier this year.
The result catapulted the University of Exeter student up to 23rd in the general classification, 49 seconds adrift of new race leader Alessandro Tonelli.
The Bardiani CSF man was runner-up to Meyer on the stage, with New Zealander Patrick Bevin completing the podium.
Team Sky’s Wout Poels, Lotto-NL Jumbo’s Primož Roglič and Quick-Step Floors duo Julian Alaphilippe and Bob Jungels all finished in the front group as the rolling terrain in Devon delivered the anticipated general classification shake-up.
Only 31 riders remain within a minute of the green jersey Tonelli, of which Canyon Eisberg’s Stedman is one.
Nic Dlamini handed the Skoda king of the mountains jersey over to his Dimension Data team-mate Scott Davies, who starred in the day’s breakaway.
Great Britain’s Matt Bostock surrendered the Eisberg sprints jersey to Team Wiggins’ Irishman Matthew Teggart.
Meanwhile, Meyer wrested the Wahoo points jersey from the shoulders of stage one winner Andre Greipel, although both men are level with Poels at the summit.
It took 16km before the breakaway was established on stage two. Meyer, Tonelli, Davies and Teggart were joined by Erick Rowsell, of Madison Genesis.
Canyon Eisberg were aggressive in the early skirmishes and Townsend set off in a bid to bridge to the escapees.
But just as he was set to make the junction, the former British Cycling Spring Cup champion crashed and the chance was gone.
Team-mate Andrew Tennant had a heavy fall – broken only by a bramble bush – as rain spiced up an already-attritional stage.
Ryan Christensen crossed the line in the third group, 3min 22sec down on Meyer. Townsend, Tennant, Dexter Gardias and Alex Paton were almost 11.54 adrift. Click here for the full result.
Tuesday’s third stage starts and finishes in Bristol and features a category one climb – Providence Lane – within the final eight kilometres. Roll out is 11.30am.
Live television coverage begins on ITV4 at 11.15am, while daily highlights are screened at 8pm.