Quintana attacked the red jersey group on the slopes of the Alto de Sotres, but was quickly brought back by the combined forces of the Astana and Tinkoff-Saxo teams. While Quintana finished fourth on the stage, he remains three minutes back on the overall classification, in ninth position.
Quintana was upbeat about his performance, saying he was just happy to still be in the race after his illness last week.
“For me it's already a big prize to recover so quickly, remembering how I was badly struggling two days ago being so sick and thinking of retiring from the race," Quintana said. "I want to thank the whole team for taking care of me, believing on my chances and working as much as they did to make up a bit of time on the GC."
It looks like the Colombian hasn't ruled out the possibility of going for a long-range flyer during tonight's 185km stage from Luarca to Ermita de Alba, but at this point in the race a bid for a stage win is more likely.
"I have looked at the Alba stage, and I like it, just like with any mountain one. I hope to keep feeling as strong as I did today, or even a bit better. My main goal remains the GC podium."
Movistar co-leader Alejandro Valverde also admitted that a second Vuelta victory was now out of his grasp.
"You've got to accept what your real level is at the moment, and value everything that took you to this: one is not always as strong as one would want to be. I'm already feeling the wear and tear of the whole season, after all the pressure I had to face until the very end of the Tour," Valverde said. "It was a fantastic season and we must applaud those who are strong enough to be ahead of us."