Moreno Moser became the first Italian to win the Strade Bianche as the race came down to a grandstand finish in Siena.
The 22-year old attacked out of the front group on the penultimate section of unpaved white road and made a narrow advantage stick to the line, taking the biggest win of his career and leading home a Cannondale 1-2 in the process.
Moser's team-mate Peter Sagan was second across the line, six seconds back, the pre-race favourite able to shadow attacks from the big favourites with the benefit of a team-mate up the road.
Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R - La Mondiale) rounded out the podium in the spectacular surroundings of the finishing square while 2012 winner Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) had to be content with fourth.
The day's break also played a crucial part in the action, the quartet of Michael Schär (BMC Racing), Giaro Ermeti (Androni Giocattoli), Maxim Belkov (Katusha) and Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM Cycling) lasting deep into the race, only to be overhauled on the run-in by a rampant Moser.
Despite the force of his attack Moser looked like he might have let the win slip as behind a number of accelerations threatened to bring things back together as the race hit the final 16-per-cent incline up to the finish.
A race that has quickly become a classic in every sense of the word, the 188km test featured eight unpaved sectors making up 60km of mythical strade bianche.
With the attack up the road the early gap to the quartet spun out to over 10 minutes but cold, windy conditions saw their deficit slashed as the peloton regrouped - Cannondale and RadioShack-Leopard taking up the chase.
Chasing through the dust a number of riders found themselves caught up in crashes as the pace increased. One big name to fall foul of the terrain in the early going was Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner Luca Paolini (Katusha), the Italian crashing out and abandoning the race.
The first of the big names to blink and attack was Juan Antonio Flecha, the Vacansoleil-DCM Spaniard sticking his nose out on the undulating Monte Sante Marie section with the hope of instigating another chase group.
With the lead group whittled down to 35 riders Cannondale took hold of the race for favourite Sagan before the pace shot up inside 20km to go, Cancellara highly active as Flecha was finally caught after a fruitless attack.
With Cannondale looking exposed for the first time the Italian squad went on the front foot via Moser, the second-year pro pushing on and eventually dropping the plucky Flecha en route to the biggest win of his career.
Elsewhere at the 3 Days of West-Flanders Mark Cavendish was unable to claim a sprint victory despite the hard work of his Omega Pharma - Quick-Step squad.
The Manxman was not present in the top 10 as Danilo Napolitano (Accent.Jobs) took the win one stage one ahead of young guns Tom Van Asbroeck (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Barry Markus (Vacansoleil-DCM).
Kristoff Vandewalle (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) retained the race lead following on from his victory in Friday's prologue.