Giacomo Nizzolo took the win at the European Championships road race in a frantic bunch sprint ahead of French national champion, Arnaud Démare and German, Pascal Ackermann.
The race was filled with sharp attacks from around 70km to go, but no move could stick with Italy and France riding solely for a sprint finish.
Riders like Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) and Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium) tried to get away on multiple occasions but it was always heading for a sprint.
Eventually it was the three premier sprinters in the race that came to the fore with Nizzolo able hold off Démare to the line.
How it happened
The race started and finished in the Bretagne town of Plouay in France where the riders took in local laps over a total distance of 177.45km, with each lap including the climbs of the Côte du Lézot and the Côte du Pont-Neuf.
A four man break went up the road early on, with Pawel Bernas (Poland), Dušan Rajović (Serbia), Emil Dima (Romania) and Andreas Miltiadis (Cyprus) forming the escape.
This group stayed together until around 80km to go where they started to break down with the peloton closing in. Eventually Bernas was left on his own before being caught with five laps to go.
With 70km to go there was a large crash which saw sprinter Jasper Philipsen (Belgium) crash out of the race in a pile up that brought down 20 riders.
The following lap saw the speed rocket with Sep Vanmarke (Belgium) pushing the pace right up as they went up the Lézot, where he tried to break up the peloton for his leaders.
Moments after that, with 51km to go, Van der Poel tried a stinging attack but that was brought back immediately. Rubén Guerreiro (Portugal), David van der Poel (Netherlands), Diego Rubio (Spain) and Bernas then went clear.
Vanmarke tried to do the same again on the Lézot climb, but this time it was to set up an attack from Van Avermaet with 39km to go but it wasn’t allowed to go.
Then, Belgium tried again with Jasper Stuyvan going up the road, he bridged over to the leaders with France and Italy left to chase with 36km to go.
That group was pulled back in an instant thanks to another Mathieu van der Poel attack with Matteo Trentin (Italy) and a few other favourites following at 29km to go, the French managed to pull it back again. Van der Poel tried again a few kilometres later but, again, was brought back.
The race was all together as they went into the final lap and it was Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium who took control.
Markus Hoelgaard (Norway) went solo with 11km to go with no reaction behind. The Uno-X rider pulled out a gap of about 20 seconds with the Dutch controlling the pace then the French came up with 9km to go.
As they hit the final ascent of the Pont-Neuf, Hoelgaard still had a lead, albeit a slim one, but the pace was high behind with 3km to go. Eventually the Norwegian was caught with 2.3km to go.
Tom Pidcock (Great Britain) and Rui Costa (Portugal) tried a last ditch attack as they went over the top but Italy pulled it back very quickly as the race was set up for a bunch sprint.
It came down to a photo finished between Nizzolo, Démare and Ackermann but it was the Italian champion, Nizzolo, who took the European title for Italy who have won the last three years.
The Frenchman, Démare, couldn’t get the win on his 29th birthday in France and was in tears after the finish.
Nizzolo will first wear his new jersey on the Tour de France start line in Nice a few days from now.
European Championships 2020, elite men’s road race: Plouay to Plouay (177.45km)
1. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita), in 4-12-23
2. Arnaud Démare (Fra)
3. Pascal Ackermann (Ger)
4. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned)
5. Jasper Stuyvan (Bel)
6. Davide Ballerini (Ita)
7. Maciej Paterski (Pol)
8. Iván García Cortina (Esp)
9. Adam Toupalík (Cze)
10. Benoit Cosnefroy (Fra), all at the same time