The Welshman was at the sharp end of the race for much of the 198.3 kilometres in Flanders, eventually finishing as part of a chase group into Gent, 50 seconds back on race winner Greg van Avermaet.
The Belgian (BMC Racing) was able to claim back to back victories in the race, holding off Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Sep Vanmarcke (Cannondale-Drapac) in a tense three-up sprint.
A thrilling race gradually unfurled, before blowing apart inside the final 65km. A combination of a mass pile-up on the Donderij cobbles and the punishing Taaienberg climb brought about a key moment in the race.
With half the peloton trapped behind, Rowe, Ian Stannard and Gianni Moscon toiled over the selective climb to bring themselves into play. Rowe found himself in the lead group briefly, but with the race stretched to breaking point, a punishing acceleration from world champion Sagan on the Eikenberg saw the elastic snap.