Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) attacked a powerful lead group going into a descent 17km from the finish and then pressed his advantage to win Il Lombardia on Sunday.
The 245km race from Bergamo to Como is the final monument of the season.
Nibali’s bold move and his aggressive descending quickly gave him a lead of a half minute over a chase group containing Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Dani Moreno (Katusha), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and other contenders.
But the Italian champion never faltered and hung on to take the victory ahead of Moreno with Pinot third.
“It’s never simple to win a race of this stature. But it was my time to win it,” said Nibali.
It was a happy ending to the season for the Italian champion, who hit a low point during the Vuelta a España when he was thrown out for holding on to a team car during a stage.
And he acknowledged a debt to Astana teammates Mikel Landa and Diego Rosa, who worked hard to reel in escapees Michal Kwiatkowski and Tim Wellens, who made the first breakaway 50km out and were back on terms by the Civiglio climb 20km from home.
“The team worked really well,” Nibali said. “I tried to go clear on the Civiglio climb, but it was hard, but I got away going downhill and I was able to finish the good work the whole team put in.”
Moreno was disappointed to have come within 20 seconds of the victory, but content to have finished the season with a strong result.
“I know the victory was very close, but I did all I could in this race, so I can be satisfied with the result,” he said. “Anyway, I think today’s podium is a good result for me and this is a really strong finish of the season.”
For his part, Pinot said he was pleased to have made the podium.
“I have no regrets,” he said. “Nibali’s attack on the descent of Civiglio surprised us all.”