A blistering attack by Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) on the Lagos de Covadonga netted the Frenchman a superb solo victory on the climb often considered Spain's Alpe d'Huez.
Historically, Covadonga has seen some of the greatest climbers triumph on the mist-enshrouded summit deep in the Asturian mountains, and for many fans, Pinot - already a winner on the Alpe d'Huez in France - is a fitting latest addition to that list.
Praised by Simon Yates (MItchelton-Scott) for the power and timing of his move, Pinot crossed the line with a 28-second advantage on closest pursuer Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) for his first win since the Tour of the Alps this spring.
More importantly, Pinot's victory is his first stage win in the Vuelta a Espana after wins in the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France, making him the latest rider to claim victories in all three Grand Tours.
"I could take advantage of the way they [the GC contenders] were marking each other so closely, and once I had 15 seconds advantage I knew I could do it," Pinot, who attacked just before the climb's hardest segment of La Huesera, said afterwards.
"It was a hard-fought win, one taken a la pedale, but I wanted to get a win in the Giro, Tour and the Vuelta and now I've done that."
It's a sign of how important the stage win was to Pinot that he said he had no regrets about having lost time earlier in the Vuelta, in an echelon, because as he put it, "without having lost that time, I might not have been given such room for manouvre today."
"So I have no regrets, everything has worked out as I wanted it to today, I'm taking things very calmly."
On a great day for French cycling - Julian Alaphilippe (Quick Step Floors) won the Tour of Britain just a few hours before Pinot blazed his way to victory in the mist at the summit of Covadonga - the big question from hereon is whether Pinot, having garnered his' stage, will now go for GC.
The Frenchman, now seventh overall, replied that he would now try for that, but that he would not sacrifice his chances of going for more stage wins to do so.
"There are three summit finishes left, so of course I want to go for those," he said. "Both of the Andorran stages look interesting. Let's see what happens on GC, the chrono could be good for me.
"But in any case, I will fight until I get to Madrid for GC too. Third would be good, fifth would be good - anything could happen."
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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