Modolo had missed out on victory on stage one after celebrating too early and getting rolled on the line by Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) but was making no such mistakes on stage three.
The Italian was kept to the front of affairs through the last kilometre, helping him to stay ahead of a crash through the final corner, and then sprinted clear of his rivals and even putting in a bike throw to take his first victory of the season.
Meanwhile race leader Wout Poels (Team Sky) finished safely in the main pack to retain the leader’s red jersey ahead of Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal).
How it happened
A flat stage three saw the break take 23km to form, with Marco Minnaard (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Alvaro Cuadros (Caja Rural-RGA Seguros), Hector Saez (Euskadi-Murias), and Oscar Cabedo (Burgos-BH) making the move and opening a maximum lead of less than three minutes.
Team Sky, working for Wout Poels, took responsibility for limiting the quartet’s lead, before the sprinters’ teams started to lend a hand in the final 50km and the gap began to fall.
As the gap came below a minute with 30km remaining, Cuadros and Saez forged on alone as they left their breakaway companions. However by 13km to go the duo’s lead was down to just 20 seconds, and the catch was made shortly after.
With eight kilometres remaining it was Ag2r La Mondiale who took up the pace-setting as they looked to set up Clément Venturini, but it was down to Astana to make an impact as they strung the peloton out into a long line to keep their GC men out of trouble with four kilometres to go.
However things began to get a bit messy on the final run towards the line, with an Ag2r La Mondiale rider crashing on the final corner to see a group of 12 riders given a slight gap over the rest of the peloton.
Sacha Modolo was safely sat just a couple of wheels back, and held off the rest of the fastmen to win by a bike length and take his first victory of the season.
The 2018 Ruta del Sol continues on Saturday with a 194.7km stage from Sevilla to Alcalá de los Gazules, featuring a short, punchy uphill finish.
Ruta del Sol 2018, stage three: Mancha Real to Herrera, 166.1km
1. Sacha Modolo (Ita) EF Education First-Drapac, in 3-48-17
2. Carlos Barbero (Esp) Movistar
3. Nelson Andres Soto Martinez (Col) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
4. Oscar Gatto (Ita) Astana
5. Moreno Hofland (Ned) Lotto Soudal
6. Jon Aberasturi Izaga (Esp) Euskadi-Murias
7. Eduard Michael Grosu (Rom) Nippo-Vini Fantini
8. Coen Vermeltfoort (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij
9. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
10. Colin Joyce (USA) Rally Cycling, all at same time
General classification after stage three
1. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky,
2. Luis León Sanchez (Esp) Astana, at 2 secs
3. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal, at same time
4. Mikel Landa (Esp) Movistar, at 4 secs
5. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at same time
6. Marc Soler (Esp) Movistar, at 17 secs
7. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 27 secs
8. Mikel Bizkarra (Esp) Euskadi-Murias, at 34 secs
9. Amaro Antunes (Por) CCC Sprandi Polkowice, at 38 secs
10. Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal, at same time