Movistar played everyone like an accordion for almost the entire stage. First came Valverde scooping up three bonus seconds on the second intermediate sprint. Then on the descent from the penultimate Col de Creueta hors category climb, he bridged to escapee Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott).
While Movistar allowed Matej Majoric (Bahrain Merida) to slip away a little on the same descent, the team reeled him back in by the foot of the final 11 kilometre climb.
From there Movistar delved into its supply of fireworks and released them one by one in the final seven kilometres. First Soler pulled clear with Pierre LaTour (AG2R). Valverde bridged across with teammate Quintana and Bernal for company. Soler attacked several times, setting it up for his teammates to administer the final blows.
Bernal attempted to distance himself from the quintet but found himself caught between a Valverde rock and Quintana hard place. Quintana worked for Valverde for the next five kilometres moving aside with just 500 metres to the line, leaving it up to the veteran to easily move around Bernal in the final hundred metres.
It was Valverde's second victory at the race, and incredibly his seventh for 2018.
“I was so happy to see things unfold in such a great way for us into that last climb. With help from our team directors and with some good organisation between the three of us, everything went to perfection.
"Still, it wasn’t really that hard, the strategy for me was simple: should Soler or Nairo attack, I just had to wait and let others go after their moves. Being three into those groups, we had a strong advantage. I just had to stay on their wheels and then go for the stage win.
"I won’t get tired of saying it: Nairo, Marc and all team-mates were ‘A-plus’ today. Bernal now becomes the most dangerous contender for the GC. He’s a brilliant rider at this moment and he’ll be even better in the future. We should keep an eye on him all the way to Sunday. I trust my team-mates and we’ll fight to keep this jersey until the very end.”
With teammate Adam Yates not taking the start after fracturing his pelvis in a crash on the previous stage, and and after himself losing time, Chaves hunted stage glory. He pulled clear from the bunch with Joey Rosskopf (BMC), Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) and Stephane Rosetto (Cofidis) after about 90 kilometres of the 170km stage.
The Colombian Kangaroo soon pounced solo and held around a minute's advantage over the top of the penultimate climb, the hors category Col de Creueta. But he was soon caught by Valverde and Mohoric. Chaves teammate Simon Yates finished seventh on the stage and now sits fifth overall.