Lewis, who has twice been crowned national champion, was beaten in a sprint finish by Khalid Skah, Morocco's Olympic 10,000 metres champion, and Kenya's Ismael Kirui, the world junior cross-country champion.
Skah came home in 28min 01sec, a second ahead of Kirui, with Lewis a further second back. The margin underlined Lewis's recent boast that he could keep up with the Africans, who dominate world cross-country running.
'I came here to finish in the top 10, but I didn't expect to end up third. My training has gone fairly well but it's been nothing special,' Lewis said.
The women's race was won by Ireland's Catherina McKiernan, who clawed back an early lead from Lydia Cheromei, Kenya's former world junior cross-country champion.
IAAF WORLD CROSS-COUNTRY CHALLENGE (Mol, Belgium) Men: 1 K Skah (Morocco) 28min 01sec; 2 I Kirui (Ken) 28:02; 3 D Lewis (GB) 28:03. Other British placings: 7 J Brown 28:18; 9 P Dugdale 28:21; 15 C Moore 29:01; 20 S Tunstall 29:17; 24 J Downes 29:40; 28 B Spawsorth 29:57. Women: 1 C McKiernan (Ire) 15:53; 2 E Kiplagat (Ken) 15:57; 3 L Chermoei (Ken) 16:07. British placings: 16 A Wallace 16:50; 19 S McGeorge 17:02. Standings (after two races) Men: 1 O Osoro (Ken) 33pts; 2 E Kanario (Por) 25; Skah 25. Women: 1 McKiernan 44; Chermoei 44; 3 A Hakenstedt (Nor) 34.Reuse content