The Race for the Stage
It took ten kilometres of sustained attacking before the breakaway formed, with the 11-rider move being given a very long leash by the peloton with none of the riders present a threat on the general classification.
On the 160 kilometres of flat terrain into the foot of the final climb, none of the big teams could motivate themselves to chase down the move and so the break came into the final 50 kilometres with just under a ten minute advantage on the peloton.
Zico Waeytens (Giant-Alpecin), a rider more built for the cobbled classics, was the first to break the cooperation in the escape group, attacking near the foot of the climb with 8km to go, but was chased down by Gatis Smukulis (Astana) with Jhonatan Restrepo (Katusha) on his wheel.
Restrespo then kept powering on away from the others, leading by 20 seconds with three kilometres to go. But in the steep final kilometres Axel Domont (AG2R-La Mondiale), Pieter Serry (Etixx-QuickStep) and Sergey Lagutin (Katusha) bridged back up, closing down the gap to Restrepo, making contact with 1600m to go and leaving him behind for good.
Lagutin was in the box seat at this stage, having sat on wheels all the way up the climb with his team-mate in front and made use of that in the finale.
It was a very long sprint for the stage win with a compartively fresh Lagutin jumping first. Domont tried but could not get on terms with the Russian and lost 10 seconds in the final hundred metres.
Perrig Quemeneur (Direct Energie) had to settle for third at 17 seconds after missing the initial move.
"Honestly, with two kilometres to go when the French riders began attacking and I was able to follow them without giving everything, I had the confidence," said Lagutin.
"Thanks to the sports directors Xavier Florencio he was telling me not to panic and save my legs. That's what I did and we deserved that victory."
"Finally, the dream came true. I was dreaming about this since I was little, about winning a stage in a Grand Tour like the Vuelta. Now it has happened and I still can't believe it has happened to me."
"I'm 35 years old and in some ways, I was thinking this was probably it, but I hope this makes things start all over for me."
Katusha had some very bad luck yesterday, with the already sick Rein Taaramae being hit by the Cofidis team car, mercifully escaping serious injury but having to abandon the race.
"Without a big leader here we start with new goals and we're all free to try something for ourselves when we see the opportunity.
"We are still competitive and looking forward in this Vuelta. I will be happy and proud of this stage win for the rest of my life.
"This win gives me more confidence and for sure I will look for other stages. We've just started, we have another two weeks ahead of us."
Lagutin also took the blue polka dot jersey of the king of the mountains classification leader at the end of the stage, taking the jersey off fellow stage-winner Alexandre Geniez (FDJ).
The Race for Red
Movistar showed their strength as the main mountains team at this edition of the Vuelta, hitting the lower slopes of the Alto de La Camperona and quickly thinning out the field on the torturously steep slopes of the climb.
Then with three kilometres to go, Quintana responded well to a move by Chris Froome (Team Sky), before counter-attacking, leaving both Froome and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) in his wake as he surged clear.
Settling down into his rhythm he was 25 seconds ahead of nearest finisher Contador, who overtook Froome late and 33 seconds ahead of his British rival.
The gap was enough to put him into the overall lead by 19 seconds over team-mate Alejandro Valverde, with 27 seconds back to Froome in third. Former leader Darwin Atapuma (BMC Racing Team) meanwhile, cracked earlier on the climb slumping to sixth place, a minute and 36 seconds down.
In a very good day for Movistar, Valverde crossed the line in the same time as Froome to remain in second overall, as well as holding the jersey lead in the 'combined' classification.
After a Tour where Quintana seemed out of sorts, he has appeared to bounce back in style here and is now in pole position of the Vuelta and close to his best.
“The smile I carried through the finish line was just a grimace of pure suffering," said Quintana, "but happily, we achieved our goal of the day.
"This was my main expectation for the day, to try to gain some time on our rivals. We started, however, those steep slopes of La Camperona with much caution; we were waiting for Froome’s attack, which obviously came, and we had energy enough to respond to it.
"I was always keen to do something here, and I knew I was a bit stronger than before. I was coming to this Vuelta with lots of ambition, like in every single GT I start, but it always boosts your confidence to see you’re a little bit ahead of your rivals for one day."
The question of whether Movistar are biting off more than they can chew at this stage was dismissed by Quintana.
“It’s never soon to get a leader’s jersey: it’s better to be ahead with a few seconds than trying desperately to make them up from behind."
"The GC is looking quite sorted out, which is reasonable, taking into account that we’ve raced really fast over the week, with demanding stages which take its toll in finishes like today’s."
"There are a lot of mountain stages left. It will be difficult, with a lot of tension. But I believe that with the team, we will be able to defend the jersey."
"We Colombians always train very hard for this race and thanks to the support we receive from the whole country, we are strong."
Fellow Colombian Esteeban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) wasn't on such a strong day, losing a fair bit of time, but actually moving up the rankings to fourth with Atapuma cracking. The Orica-BikeExchange rider now sits 57 seconds down on Quintana.
Contador was the revelation of the day however, seemingly not hampered by the injuries sustained in the previous day's crash to produce his best climbing performance so far this Vuelta, to put himself up to 7th overall, a minute and 39 seconds behind Quintana.
”When I arrived at the hotel, I saw it was really bad," said Contador. "I couldn’t walk properly because of the pain in the calf muscle."
"I really thought my Vuelta was over. But then, with all the people keeping sending messages to me, shouting for me for kilometers… I can’t go home after all this."