The riders would head off on an undulating course through Castilla y Leon to the first summit finish of the race, the steep, eight-kilometre run to Picón Blanco, where there would be a GC showdown.
In the end, however, the stage was more about who lost time, rather than any big attacks from the GC riders, with a headwind on the way up preventing any big names from clipping off the front of the peloton.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) did lose his leader's red jersey after wearing it for two days, though that was by design rather than via jour sans, as Rein Taaramäe (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) rolled back the years to take victory from the break, 10 years on from his win on La Farrapona.
The Estonian got the better of Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates) and Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo) on the climb, powering clear on the double-digit gradients to take the win and with it the red jersey.
Almost two minutes further back, the Movistar triumvirate of Enric Mas, Miguel Angel López and Alejandro Valverde put on the pressure late on, though there was little to choose between them, Roglič, Adam Yates, Egan Bernal, and Mikel Landa.
Other hopefuls did lose time, though, with Hugh Carthy, Aleksandr Vlasov, Richard Carapaz and Romain Bardet among the GC riders to trail in behind having shed chunks of time on the tough first summit finish of the Vuelta.
Watch how it all unfolded in our highlights video above.
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