As expected, Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) slipped out of the lead after a brave stint in the red jersey. Mitchelton-Scott's Simon Yates said he didn't expect to take the race lead.
"I was just going to try and follow the best guys," he said. "I was a little bit behind, only a few seconds and even when I was warming down I was not really aware that I was in the jersey. So a good day!"
Movistar's Quintana is nipping at his heels, finishing a feisty nine seconds ahead of the Brit on the Covatilla and now only 14 seconds behind on the general classification.
"We have seen small differences," Quintana said. "Which may be important for us, and the small moments of crisis that we have had have been less thanks to Richard's (Carapaz) great work, which has helped us a lot. Yates will surely try to defend the leader's jersey in these coming days and we must go on the expectation, wait until the next day to favour us to keep gaining ground."
Although Alejandro Valverde finished slightly adrift of his team mate, he still sits just one second behind Yates. The script says the Colombian should finish in Madrid well ahead of the 38-year-old, but who knows what the ageless veteran could do.
The largely under rated Wilco Kelderman was the big star of the day, hanging tough with Astana's Miguel Ángel López and Quintana over the line. His efforts on the Clovatilla repaired some of the damage caused by the time loss he suffered on Stage 6.
“At the beginning of the climb I wasn’t feeling that good," Kelderman said, now one minute and 50 seconds in deficit to Yates. "The wind was strong so I tried to take it a little bit easy – attacking early wasn’t really an option. I found a good moment so I tried it and we managed to get a gap, it was good to gain some time.
"I lost a lot of time the other day, but it’s still quite early in the Vuelta so we’ll see next week. I hadn’t raced for a long time before the Vuelta but now everyday I feel like I’m getting better.”
Sky's Michal Kwiatkowski slipped out of contention as expected but team mate David de La Cruz finishing adrift of the other contenders was a little more surprising.
How the GC looks after Stage 9 of the Vuelta:
1. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)
2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +1
3. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +14
4. Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-hansgrohe) +16
5. Ion Izagirre (Bahrain Merida) +17
6. Tony Gallopin (AG2R Mondiale) +24
7. Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) +27
8. Rigoberto Uran (EF Drapac) +32
9. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL Jumbo) +43
10. George Bennett (LottoNL Jumbo) +48
11. Fabio Aru (UAE) +1:08
12. Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors) +1.15
13. David De La Cruz (Sky) +1.34
14. Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) +1:50
15. Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) + 2:10
The race continues on Tuesday from 11.15pm AEST on SBS Viceland, Twitter and our site - with Stage 10,177km from Salamanca. VIII Centenario Universidad de Salamanca to Fermoselle. Bermillo de Sayago. It's a flat stage - yes, actually flat - so we should the sprinters shine.