The double ascension of the third-category Alto de la Cresta del Gallo, a tough 4.2 kilometre climb at 7.5 percent, in the final 40km did its job to shed most of the top sprinters save for Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), whose attack was nullified when he collided with a Shimano neutral service bike.
"I was so aggressive... mad at myself, motivating myself, (telling myself) I can do this. So I kept pushing. And in the end it was not even so close. (A) great victory... It's why I came to the Vuelta." - Jasper Stuyven
It left a reduced group of some 50 riders to chase down the remaining three-man break comprised of José Gonçalves (Caja Rural), Kenny Elissonde (FDJ.fr) and Alberto Losada (Katusha), duly caught with 3.5km to go.
Aussie Grand Tour rider extraordinaire, Adam Hansen (Lotto-Soudal) made a last-ditch effort 1.5km from the line, but it was shut down in time for Stuyven to launch his sprint early - one that was never really challenged.
"We knew it was going to be really hard today," Stuyven said. "We were well-placed together with the team and then there was the big crash and we had a few of us go down. I was also in the crash, and I hit my wrists pretty bad; they were hurting a lot, but I said to the guys I am gonna try.
"I suffered a lot the first time up the climb, and I was afraid that I would not make it a second time, but Dirk (Demol, sport director) was there to say to keep fighting, keep fighting. And I was in a good position at the bottom so I could drift a little bit back on the climb; I think I was one of the last guys to make it over with the front group.
"Haimar (Zubeldia) and Riccardo (Zoidl) were there to pull the guys (in the break) back, they did a really, really great job. I was in a good place, in the wheel of (Tosh) van der Sande, because he was going well. Then we slowed down and they came from behind, but I felt it was a little bit of a tailwind so I thought (to myself) just go for it and I went with 350 metres to go.
"Then (Bilbao) from Caja-Rural came a little bit from the left, but I felt immediately I had more power. I was so aggressive... mad at myself, motivating myself, (telling myself) I can do this. So I kept pushing. And in the end it was not even so close. (A) great victory... It's why I came to the Vuelta."
The "big crash" Stuyven spoke of, which occurred some 50km from the finish as the peloton approached the first ascent of the Cresta del Gallo, saw Kris Boeckmans (Lotto Soudal), Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), Dan Martin (Cannondale Garmin) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) exit the race.
Boeckmans was the most seriously hurt with severe facial trauma including several fractures, concussion, three broken ribs and bleeding in his lung; at the behest of doctors, the Belgian is in a medically-induced coma at a hospital in Murcia.
Race leader Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) was also involved the pile-up but was not seriously hurt. Having finished safely in the bunch, the Colombian retained his lead and status quo on the leaderboard's top 10, with the exception of Cannondale's Martin.
"It was very stressful, everyone wanted to be at the front," Chaves said. "Then one Lotto Soudal rider (Boeckmans) fell in front of me after a roundabout. I think this rider is really bad and I want to say to him that I hope you recover really well.
"After this, the guys stayed with me and helped me get back to the first group. I started the climbs in the first group, the downhill was really dangerous, really narrow, but in the end we kept the red jersey.
"I want to say again thank you to the boys and also to Neil (Stephens, sport director), because in the moment after the crash he kept talking to me, and when the big riders attacked he kept me calm."
Update: Stuyven abandons
Just a few hours after young Belgian talent Jasper Stuyven won the eighth stage of the Vuelta, his team announced his withdrawal from the race due to a broken left scaphoid.
Stuyven was one of the many involved in the large crash that saw the abandons of Boeckmans, Bouhanni, Martin and van Garderen.
"After the finish, I felt my wrist and it was getting more and more painful, so I asked to go to the hospital to make a check," he said.
"I was already scared that it could be the scaphoid because I know from friends who are cyclists what the pain feels like and where it’s located. And, unfortunately, the X-rays confirmed that it is broken and that my Vuelta finishes today.”
Nevertheless, Stuyven remains positive. “At first I was of course really disappointed, but then I realised that I really have to enjoy this moment, because now is the time to enjoy my first professional win. For what’s next, I will see when I get home and have the surgery.”
Said Trek Factory Racing doctor Nino Daniele, who accompanied Stuyven to the hospital: “The fracture is not dislocated, so in fact it won’t be difficult to resolve it, but it goes without saying that Jasper cannot ride his bike for now.
"First of all, it would be very painful, but then it’s also possible that the broken bones move and we absolutely want to avoid that.”
Jasper Stuyven will fly back to Belgium on Sunday in order to have surgery as soon as possible in his hometown of Leuven.
“If anything goes well, as I hope, in a couple of weeks, he should be back on the bike and probably sooner on the rollers with his cast,” Daniele said.