Dutchman Bert Jan Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo) took advantage of the waiting game played by the Vuelta favourites in the first mountain stage of this 70th edition to clinch a career-high victory after a long breakaway on a day when Chris Froome showed worrying signs of weakness. Lindeman won ahead of breakaway companion Ilia Eshevoy (Lampre-Merida) and Italy's Fabio Aru (Astana) the most impressive favorite, who surged in the finale to impress the rest of the GC riders, among them Colombia's Esteban Chaves (Orica-Greendge) who retained his overall lead.
The actual start was given at 12:42 to 189 riders. After a nervous start, the break of the day took shape at kilometer 12 when five riders parted company with the bunch. Carlos Quintero (Colombia), Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural), Ilia Koshevoy (Lampre-Merida), Bert Jan Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Jerome Cousin (Europcar) saw their lead increase steadily until kilometer 30, when Chaves's Orica-Greenedge team-mates decided eight minutes was enough and took the reins of the peloton.
At the first climb of the day, the 3rd category Puerto de los Blancares (km 87), the lead had gone up to ten minutes as Txurruka – the most aggressive rider of the day – was leading the way. The gap reached a maximum of 13 minutes with 80 km to go, when Astana shared the chasing duties with Orica-Greenedge. Team Sky later joined the effort as the gap dropped back to ten minutes in the last 50 km.
But only when Movistar took their turn at the font of the bunch 35km from the line did the gap go down significantly (less than 8:00 at the Lanjaron sprint won by Lindeman). Katusha were the last to up the tempo as the lead was cut down to seven minutes with 25 km left and to six at the bottom of the final climb.
The team-mates of Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana led the way in the first eight kilometers of the ascent towards Capileira as the peloton started to split. The first prominent rider to lose touch was Pierre Rolland (Europcar). Astana reluctantly took over the reins of the pack, still trailing the escapees by 3:10 with 10 km to go.
Successive attacks by Cousin and Koshevoy scattered the leading group and the two found themselves in the lead with three kilometres remaining. But Lindeman refused to bow and made up the gap one kilometre later.
As the three are involved in a fierce battle for the stage win, the GC race yielded its first indications. Tour de France champion Chris Froome was unexpectedly dropped in the last two kilometers as Fabio Aru surged to take third place behind Lindeman and Koshevoy. Froome lost 27 seconds on the other pre-Vuelta favourites, led by Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) as Chaves retained the red jersey.