Much was expected from the 161km mid-mountain stage from Vélez-Málaga to Alfacar Sierra de la Alfaguara and it delivered with the 12.4km long climb to Puerto de Alfacar the highlight.
King (Dimension Data) and Stalnov (Astana) were the last survivors of a day-long breakaway on the grinding final 15 kilometres of racing. Pierre Rolland (EF Education First-Drapac) finished third.
"Stalnov wanted me to give him the victory if he helped me take the red jersey," said King of his first ever grand tour stage victory. "But winning a grand tour stage was my goal since the beginning of the year."
“It was the plan to be part of the breakaway but then I didn’t know exactly how to handle things. At some point I realised the front group would fight for the stage but I wasn’t convinced I’d be the strongest. I went early and I put myself in TT mode.
"I was totally jacked up, I could feel the cramps but I stayed strong in the head and got it. It’s incredible. It’s great for the team too.
"Everybody knows we’ve had a rough season but we believe in what we do. We know a victory like today’s will help raise more bikes for Qhubeka. It’s an honour to ride for a cause and an extra motivation.”
The general classification was shaken up with Emanuel Buchmann (BORA-hansgrohe) now in second place overall at seven seconds behind Michał Kwiatkowski (Sky) while Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), perhaps the best of the favourites on the stage, rode himself to third.
However, the race remains wide open with 20 riders still within two minutes of the overall lead.
How the stage unfolded
The early part of the break again belonged to Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) who added to his mountains classification lead after cresting the Alto de la Cabra Montés ahead of Ben Gastauer (AG2R) and Rolland.
Also in the break was Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal), Lars Boom (Team LottoNL Jumbo), Oscar Cabedo (Burgos-BH) and Aritz Bagues (Euskadi-Murias) who contributed to the time gap to a Sky led peloton running past 10 minutes, enough to give the riders up front a chance at the win.
After several attempts, King and Stalnov managed to get away from their breakaway companions 10km from the summit. They combined to hold off a charging Rolland before King outpowered Stalnov.
Out of the favourites, Yates attacked with three kilometres to go to go, with Buchmann following.
La Vuelta continues with a 188km mid-mountain stage from Granada to Roquetas de Mar but the road book says it's still one for the sprinters on account of the 30km downhill run into the finish after the final catetegorised climb.