(L-R) Michael Phelps, Nathan Adrian and Cullen Jones of the United States cheer on their teammate during the Men's 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay final on Day 2 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre on July 29, 2012 in London, England.
Credit: Mike Hewitt

Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte couldn't save the US men's 4x100-meter Olympic team from the French in tonight's dramatic final in London.

In what USA Today described as "nearly a mirror image of what happened in Beijing in 2008," Yannick Agnel overtook Lochte in the anchor leg after the US had led from the start of the race.

"Jason Lezak did the same thing to France four years ago, capturing a stunning gold medal for the US that kept Michael Phelps' quest for eight gold medals alive," the paper explained.

According to the Associated Press, the French team of Amaury Leveaux, Fabien Gilot, Clement Lefert and Agnel clocked 3 minutes, 9.93 seconds to take gold, the Americans 3:10.38 to take silver and Russia swam 3:11.41 for the bronze.

Australia, the pre-race favorites, finished fourth.

The US had kept its relay final lineup secret until 6:45 p.m. London time Sunday night, according to Yahoo Sport, opting to put Lochte in the anchor leg despite his inexperience in the event.

Phelps lost his usual lead-off position to Nathan Adrian, and Irvington native Cullen Jones swam the third leg.

According to the AP, the US had hoped Lochte — coming off a dominating win over Phelps in the 400 individual medley  — would boost them to an upset finish.

"We were open-minded coming in," Gregg Troy, head coach of the U.S. men's team, said after the preliminaries.

"We did talk to eight guys and told them they could be on the relay. Quite frankly, we feel like any of the eight could do a real good job. It's just a matter of which ones. We can only swim four. So we put our heads together and decided which four it was."

However, Phelps improved on his personal Olympic medal tally, the silver his 17th, putting him one behind the most-decorated Olympian, Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina, according to Russia Today.

More from GlobalPost: Michael Phelps qualifies last for 400 IM final at London Olympics

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