Elia Viviani easily outsprinted Belgium's Yves Lampaert to retain the European Championship for Italy.
Pascal Ackermann (Germany) came third with Alexander Kristoff (Norway) taking the reduced peloton across the line ahead of Sam Bennett (Ireland) in a sprint finish.
The Deceuninck - Quick-Step team-mates had attacked alongside Pascal Ackermann with 25km to go, never extending their advantage over the minute mark but holding firm.
Yves Lampaert attacked with 3km to go, with Viviani sitting on Ackermann's wheel as the German gave chase. When the Bora-Hansgrohe rider flicked his elbow for the Italian to help, Viviani counter-attacked, making the jump across to his Deceuninck - Quick-Step team-mate.
The Belgian attempted to sprint with a few hundred metres to go but Viviani easily passed him and takes the European champion's jersey, replacing the Italian champion's jersey he lost earlier this year.
How it happened
The opening hours of racing were defined by high winds battering the peloton, making conditions tough with a number of splits occurring and then coming back together.
All of the big sprinters, the likes of Ackermann, Bennett, Dylan Groenewegen (Netherlands) and Viviani made the front group, as well as Great Britain's hopeful Chris Lawless, with Mark Cavendish riding in support.
Alexander Kristoff had to expend some energy to make it back on to the group following a mechanical, taking 7km to rejoin the peloton as he sought to double his tally of European titles, having won the race in 2017.
The country of last year's victor Matteo Trentin worked hard on the front, the Italians looking to set things up for Elia Viviani this year. Upping the pace through technical corners, the race started coming apart, with Trentin himself riding hard on the front.
Groenewegen and Cavendish missed the split, but Lawless was right on Viviani's wheel in a group that included Ackermann, Bennett, Arnaud Démare (France) and Luka Mezgec (Slovenia), fresh from a fruitful Tour of Poland.
As Davide Ballerini (Italy) blocked the chase behind for his team, Kasper Asgreen (Denmark) and Yves Lampaert (Belgium) jumped across to the leading group, but a gap of half a minute soon opened up.
The Netherlands and Norway continued the chase under 40km to go, struggling to bring the gap under 20 seconds over the next 10km.
Davide Cimolai dropped off after spending all his energy on the front for Italy as Viviani, Ackermann and Lampaert went off the front of the leading group with 25km to go.
As the trio took out a 42 second gap the two groups behind came back together. Dylan van Baarle and Sebastian Langeveld worked hard for Dylan Groenewegen but Germany blocked the road well with 20km left.
As Cavendish took to the front to put in a shift for Chris Lawless, the gap hovered around the 50 second mark as the three leaders passed under 15km to the finish line.
With 10km to go the gap started to come down, the trio leading by 38 seconds as the nations chasing behind started to use up riders.
Van Baarle managed to reduce the gap to 28 seconds with 4km to go, as a kilometre up the road Lampaert attacked Ackermann and Viviani, not wanting to compete against two of the peloton's fastest men in a sprint finish.
The Belgian went clear, with Viviani sitting in Ackermann's wheel as the German gave chase. When Ackermann flicked his elbow for Viviani to come round and do some work, the Italian counter-attacked, sprinting across to his team-mate's wheel up ahead.
The Deceuninck - Quick-Step duo worked together as they headed towards the finish, Lampaert realising that a silver medal was better than a bronze. The Belgian attempted a sprint from a few hundred metres out, but Viviani easily came past him, rolling across the line to successfully defend the European title for Italy.
Ackermann rolled in behind Lampaert, with Alexander Kristoff leading the peloton home in a reduced bunch finish ahead of Sam Bennett.
European Championship - men's road race (172.6km)
1. Elia Viviani (Italy), in 3-30-52
2. Yves Lampaert (Belgium), at 1 second
3. Pascal Ackermann (Germany), at 8 seconds
4. Alexander Kristoff (Norway), at 33s
5. Michael Mørkøv (Denmark)
6. Sam Bennett (Ireland)
7. Matteo Trentin (Italy)
8. Luka Mezgec (Slovenia)
9. Arnaud Démare (France)
10. Rüdiger Selig (Germany), all at same time
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
Vuelta a España 2022 start list: All the riders expected to line up at the Spanish Grand Tour
Three-time winner Primož Roglič and recent Giro d'Italia victor Jai Hindley are both expected to start the 77th edition of the race
By Ryan Dabbs • Published
How to watch Vuelta a España 2022: Live stream the 77th Spanish Grand Tour
Here's how to catch all of the action of the Vuelta a España this August and September on TV and online
By Ryan Dabbs • Published