In the original break of the day, BMC's Alessandro De Marchi timed his final attack perfectly to drop Jhonatan Restrepo inside the final four kilometres, beating the Katusha Alpecin rider home by 28 seconds.
But so much went down before this. It took two hours before a 19-rider break pulled clear despite numerous attempts. Quick-Step Floors summed it up:
And that was before the real fireworks began. Here's what happened once the break got away:
Imagine if Thibaut Pinot pulled it off?
With his work in the original break and subsequent attacks, the Groupama-FDJ leader became virtual leader out on the road.
The work of Movistar behind and the varying motivations of other characters in the break - and maybe a little of his own decision making - ensured Pinot stayed out of the red jersey. But it's nice to imagine.
"It was a poker shot," Pinot said. "It didn't work, but I'll try again. I came to have fun. I've had a good feeling. I have spent energy, but I do not calculate, I do not want to calculate."
Bauke Mollema was surprised to take the most combative prize
"I didn't really expect it when I passed the finish line today. It was a special stage - hardest of this Vuelta. Maybe it was the hardest day of the whole year."
Alejandro Valverde expressed frustration at Movistar doing all the work...
"We had to take things over, even though we had a rider at the front," he said. "Other teams seem not to be riding to win."
"We saw no team was thinking about pulling, and as usual we ended up pulling ourselves."
"We have rivals who are very strong and have the same options for victory, but we think it means something and we pull. Everything can happen everyday...it’s been a very hard day.
...and Simon Yates is totally fine with that
A mechanical almost spelled trouble for Miguel Angel Lopez
Before the world feed went live, Astana's leader needed a bike change, almost ruining his day and possibly his GC hopes.
"I suffered a mechanical when the peloton was splitting (in the first part of the stage)."
"It took us forever to get back in the pack. Thank you to the team who was with me the whole time, we had to chase for more than 40km.
"In the end, despite the energy we spent chasing, I was still with the best in the finale. I think I’m in a good condition and we’ll keep fighting. Today we showed we work very well as a team, and that’s what matters.
"It’s been a very demanding stage."