Van Moer wasted no time getting out in front of the peloton as he formed the early breakaway alongside Pierre-Luc Perichon (Cofidis), the pair mostly unchallenged on what was a fairly uneventful journey from Redon to Fougères.
And the Belgian decided it was time to attack with 14 kilometres to go, breaking free from Perichon to surge ahead of the peloton with the time gap increasing to as much as a minute and 10 seconds as the riders approached the finish.
The dream wasn't to be though, as a visibly fatigued van Moer was caught desperately close to the line by the storming chase group led by veteran sprinter Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) who won his 31st Tour de France stage ahead of Nacer Bouhanni (Arkea-Samsic) and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) in second and third.
The 23-year-old's valiant effort saw him awarded with the most combative rider prize, as he later revealed a more attacking strategy was the reason for the ride as the team starts life at the Tour without injured star Caleb Ewan, who was forced to withdraw after crashing in stage 3.
“After Caleb Ewan was forced to abandon the race, we lost the fastest sprinter in our team," van Moer said.
"It was rather quiet at the dinner table last night because – with so many sprint opportunities – most of our team was built around Caleb. That is why we had to change tactics and race offensively."
“Despite a small success rate today, I still opted for the breakaway. Of course, I knew it would be a difficult task to stay ahead of the peloton at the Tour, but I kept fighting and gave it my all, which I always do.
"And such stages with hilly terrain suit me like a glove. I already proved so at the Dauphiné, Tirreno-Adriatico and Ronde van Limburg. In the final 15 kilometres of the stage, my teammates told me through the radio that I could win the stage, which gave me a huge boost. Unfortunately, to get caught at 100 metres from the line is really hard.”
Ewan's absence, while crushing for the team has granted van Moer a chance to step into the limelight, an opportunity he says he won't let slide as the Tour continues.
“To show these kind of things is exactly why the team selected me for the Tour de France," he said.
"I hope to be at the front again in the next weeks. Although it’s a pity I just missed out on the stage win, I have to put things into perspective. I am only 23 years old and hopefully there are still a lot of opportunities to come.”
Tour de France continues with Stage 5, a mostly flat individual time stage over a 27.2 kilometre course finishing in Laval. Watch the action on SBS and SBS OnDemand from 2030 AEST, and the SKODA Tour Tracker from 2005 AEST.