The Team Sky rider produced an impressive display at the finish in Randers, coming in behind experienced sprinters Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Theo Bos (Rabobank).
His team-mate Mark Cavendish was not so fortunate, the world champion being unable to contest the sprint after being caught up behind a crash with around 4km to go.
Despite the positioning of the accident a number of riders, including Lars-Petter Nordhaug, were eventually awarded the same time as winner Greipel.
After the stage, Team Sky Sports Director Servais Knaven explained how the finale unfolded.
He said: "We had to do three laps of 3.4km at the end and just before we hit the last lap there was a big crash in the peloton.
"Some of the guys got stuck in that. Cav got held up and Lars-Petter Nordhaug went down, although he didn't hurt himself.
"On the other hand Luke did a really good sprint and got fourth today. He went into the young riders' jersey as a result which is nice. The rest of the team rode well during the day, helping to control the race and chase the breakaway down.
"Pete Kennaugh and Geraint Thomas have come back off the Olympics which is tough but they helped bring the team towards the front heading onto the finishing circuit.
"We have Mick up there on GC and Lars-Petter back in the game which is important, as we thought he had lost time today. It was a mixed start but we will try again tomorrow."
German rider Greipel, who won three stages at this year's Tour de France, sprinted to victory at the end of the 191km test to take the overall lead of the race.
Morten Hoberg (Concordia) took maximum points on all three of the day's hill sprints, ensuring he will wear the white and blue jersey of best climber on Thursday's second stage.
Jesper Morkov (Danish National), meanwhile, was first across the line through all three intermediate sprints but his efforts could not prevent Greipel from taking the points jersey at the end of the stage.
There were a number of fleeting attacks - and a costly crash - in the closing stages but the remainder of the bunch came to the finish together, where Greipel emerged as the winner.
Results after stage 1:
1 Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol Team 4:55:06
2 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha Team
3 Theo Bos (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
4 Luke Rowe (GBr) Sky Procycling
5 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Christina Watches - Onfone
6 Matteo Pelucchi (Ita) Team Europcar
7 Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
8 Jonas Aaen Jørgensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank
9 Nikolay Trusov (Rus) RusVelo
10 Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Garmin-Sharp
59 Andrew Fenn (GBr) Omega Pharma - Quickstep
63 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky Procycling
114 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Procycling
116 Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Sky Procycling