Toms Skujins has won Tre Valli Veresine after going clear with a select group on the final climb and beating Thibaut Pinot in the sprint.
The battle came down to the last ascent with 4km remaining when Trek-Segafredo rider Skujins escaped with Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and five other riders.
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Britain’s Peter Kennaugh (Bora-Hansgrohe) was able to follow the move and came out third in the final sprint.
Reigning world champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who debuted his rainbow stripes in the race, was left behind in the peloton as the winner’s move went clear.
How it happened
The 2018 edition of the Tre Valli Varesine semi-Classic was a 212km blast through the undulating terrain of northern Italy.
A five-rider move went clear after 35km of racing, defining the early section.
The escaping riders were Michael Storer (Team Sunweb), Matteo Bono (UAE Team Emirates), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF), Paolo Toto (Sangemini-MG Kvis), and Edoardo Zardini (Willier Triestina-Selle Italia), who extended their lead to 8-40 at the furthest point.
The breakaway started to lose power with around 60km left to race as a large group of riders bridged across to the remnants and form a new 14-man break.
Big names in the new move were Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondial), Emanuel Buchmann, Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Michael Gogl (Trek-Segafredo).
That group extended their lead to 47 seconds, but the peloton started reeling them in with 40km left to ride.
They were then caught on the approach to the final climb but the throttle was held open as three riders went clear over the crest the penultimate ascent – Mathias Frank (AG2R La Mondiale), Robert Power (Mitchelton-Scott) and Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo).
More riders bridged across until a nine-man break formed but they were again reeled in on the final climb.
Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First-Drapac) then attacked from the peloton, followed by Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) who was pursued by Uran’s team-mate Michael Woods.
Uran’s kick was a decisive move as he was followed by six riders, including Pinot, Woods, Pete Kennaugh (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Skujins heading into the final 3km.
The chase behind was led by newly crowned world champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), but it was too late as the group of seven approached the line together.
Pinot hit the front in the sprint but Skujins came round and took the win.
Tre Valli Versine 2018, Saronno – Varese (212km)
1. Toms Skujins (LAT) Trek-Segafredo, in 4-55-41
2. Thibaut Pinot (FRA) Groupama-FDJ
3. Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Bora-Hansgrohe