Mark Cavendish slipped 26 seconds behind leader and Dimension Data team-mate Edvald Boasson Hagen after the third stage of the Tour of Qatar.
The 30-year-old Briton, who won the race in 2013, lost the race leadership despite finishing a strong seventh in Wednesday's 11km time trial.
Norway's Boasson Hagen finished in 13 minutes 26.98 seconds to win the stage by 25 seconds and take the lead.
The five-stage race concludes at Doha Corniche on Friday.
Cavendish plans to decide during the race whether he will compete at next month's track World Championships in London.
He told BBC Sport in January he was not sure how a winter spent mixing road and track racing would affect him.
"I could be flying, I could be catastrophic, I could be indifferent," he said.
A winner of 26 Tour de France stages, Cavendish faces a packed schedule in 2016 with August's Olympic Games in Rio also a target.
Stage three result: (Lusail - Lusail (ITT) - 11km):
1 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data 13mins 26secs
2 Jos van Emden (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo +25secs
3 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team +29secs
4 Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team +32secs
5 Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team +40secs
6 Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Astana Pro Team +43secs
7 Mark Cavendish (GB) Dimension Data +44secs
8 Jordan Kerby (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling at same time
9 Soren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Giant-Alpecin +45secs
10 Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing Team +47secs
1 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data 6hrs 53mins 35secs
2 Mark Cavendish (Gbr) Dimension Data +26secs
3 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team +32secs
4 Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team +34secs
5 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha +45secs
6 Soren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Giant-Alpecin +48secs
7 Sven Erik Bystrom (Nor) Team Katusha +1min 2secs
8 Sam Bennett (Ire) Bora-Argon 18 +1min 7secs
9 Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Team Katusha +1min 10secs
10 Michael Schar (Swi) BMC Racing Team +1min 15secs