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The Taupo rider's placing is the best achieved by a Kiwi elite male at the UCI World Road Cycling Championships.
In coming so close to a podium placing, Bevin has marked himself as a genuine contender for next year's Tokyo Olympics.
His performance was a further progression from his eighth placing at last year's world championships in Austria.
Australian Rohan Dennis outclassed the field to retain the title he won last year. He was more than a minute ahead of Belgian Remco Evenepoel, with Italy's Filippo Ganna in third, only two seconds faster than Bevin over the 54km test.
"Today was an improvement. Given the course and the field and being the world championships, then it is disappointing to miss the podium by such a small amount. But that is cycling. Fourth is fourth," he said.
"It was a big step forward today. That is two worlds in a row that I have turned up and performed. I've gone to eighth and now fourth and I want to keep that momentum going."
Bevin was ninth-fastest overall through the first time-check at 16.7kms, 9sec behind Ganna in third, but by the 37.7km point he had reduced that margin to 1.3sec.
The pair remained almost the same over the final 16km to the uphill finish in Harrogate, both averaging 48.3kmh for the journey.
Bevin said he was proud of his efforts in what has been a challenging year. He was part of a revamped team with new equipment, and has had to overcome a serious crash that forced him out of the Tour de France.
"This has come at the end of a trying year. It was good that I could bring it all together and finish well after breaking my ribs, which really put a hole in the year.
"It has been an up-and-down year. The biggest positive is that I managed to navigate the adversity that is cycling and come back out here and have a big performance. I can take a lot of heart out of that."
Bevin will have his final race of the year in Sunday's road race before a well-earned rest and time to plot his plans for the Tokyo Olympics.
The road race for male juniors takes place overnight and five New Zealanders were in action.