Thibaut Pinot rode solo to win Milano-Torino after his team-mate brought down Miguel Angel Lopez in a crash on the final climb.
Groupama-FDJ found themselves in the dominant position in the final kilometres, with Pinot and David Gaudu making it into the final group of four riders.
But as Guadu peeled off from setting the pace in the final kilometre, he collided with Astana’s Lopez who was riding up from behind.
Both Gaudu and Lopez came down, leaving Pinot free to ride to the line solo.
How it happened
The route for the 99th edition of Milano-Torino stretched to 200km of mostly flat terrain through northern Italy.
Aside from a few lumps between the 80 and 140km marks, the profile was mostly featureless until the two ominous final climbs in the final 30km, finishing at the summit the second time around.
The final featured double ascents of the Superga climb, at 4.9km long with an average steepness of 9.1% and a maximum of 14% – a big test for the climbers.
Last year’s winner Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First-Drapac) was absent from the race, along with team-mate Michael Woods, as the duo rested for Il Lombardia on Saturday.
At the half-way point in the day, a breakaway of four riders had built up a six-minute gap – Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal),Umberto Orsini (Bardiani-CSF), Krists Neilands (Israel Cycling Academy) led the race.
The unchallenging terrain and small breakaway made for a calm day’s racing in the peloton.
Groupama-FDJ and Mitchelton-Scott took on the bulk of the chasing work, to set up their respective leaders Thibaut Pinot and Adam Yates.
The gap plummeted on the run in to the first climb, which ramped up with 24km left to race.
Despite kicking on at the foot of Superga, the breakaway was swept up within the first 2km of the ascent.
Valverde was the first of the favourites to dive out from the peloton with 21km left, smashing the bunch to pieces in the process.
The strongest climbers rose to the front as Valverde attacked again near the summit, a group of three – Pinot, his team-mate David Gaudu and Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) – sticking to his wheel.
Behind, the peloton was shattered into small groups of three or four over the top.
The leading group were reeled back on the descent by a large group of favourites.
A trio made up of Gaudu, Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Daniel Martinez (EF Education First-Drapac) kicked clear on the flat section between climbs and led into the final ascent.
Adam Yates jumped across to that group with ease and was followed by Pinot, forming a five-man group at the front of the race.
Valverde then sprung back into action and joined the front of the race from the peloton,.
Gaudu set the pace with 3km left to ride, dropping everyone except team-mate Pinot, Valverde, Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Fuglsang.
An uphill crash at the front of the race with 1km caused chaos as Gaudu move across the road to peel off and collided with Lopez who was moving up alongside.
Pinot was unaffected by the clash and rode on as Lopez remounted and chased hard behind.
Valverde was beginning to lose contact before the crash and was caught by Lopez before being dropped.
The Colombian gained quickly on Pinot but was unable to close the gap.
Alejandro Valverde crossed in third, struggling to follow Lopez in the final kilometre.
Milano-Torino 2018 (200km)
1. Thibaut Pinot (FRA) Groupama-FDJ, in 4-43-36
2. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) Astana, at 10 secs
3. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Movistar, at 28 secs