The break got away early on today's third stage, but was kept under control, and Colombia's Walter Pedraza, Yellow Lotto's Bert-Jan Lindeman, Cannondale-Garmin's Davide Villella, Caja Rural's José Gonçalves, AG2R's Matteo Montaguti and Lampre-Merida's Nelson Olivera only got a maximum lead of three minutes and twenty seconds. Most of the early 'excitement' came from abandons and crashes, with Pelucchi becoming the first to abandon the race. Talansky also went down early, but seemed fine.
On the first climb of the day, a category three, there was a fight for the points in the breakaway, as the man who took them would wear the blue-dotted jersey on stage three. Villella and Lindeman both sprinted, but were beaten out by Pedraza.
It was soon after that climb when what seemed like the entire peloton found themselves on the deck. It's difficult to ascertain who or what caused the crash, but whatever the cause, there were several casualties. David Tanner was the worst affected, becoming IAM's second rider to abandon today, but Bouhanni was caught behind, along with Sagan, but most importantly, Astana leader Vincenzo Nibali. He had lost a minute, and though he was helped by team mate Zeits, it did not look good for the Italian, but he made it back to the peloton - however, he was helped rather a lot by a teamcar.
The Movistar-led peloton caught Gonçalves, the last remnant of the break, with 10 kilometres to go, and the reduced peloton headed towards the finish line.
As the climb started, Orica, Katusha and Sky had control of the peloton, as the first attack came from Europcar's Cyril Gautier, pedalling a tiny gear as he sprinted away from the peloton, grimace on his face. Tinkoff's Jay McCarthy led the peloton in pursuit, as he only gained a few seconds.
Race leader Velits was dropped behind, and Quintana was the first of the favourites to have a go, catching Gautier and as he was caught, Tom Dumoulin came over the top, as Roche, Quintana and Meintjes went again. Quintana pulled the group, dancing out of the saddle as Roche clung to his wheel, dropping Meintjes.
Behind them, Esteban Chaves was the next to attack the peloton, followed by Dan Martin, but Chaves had the bigger kick, catching the Quintana group and going straight to the front, going so far as to drop Quintana!
The gap between the front group made it likely that the attackers would win, and Chaves, Roche and Dumoulin -come on, tell me how many of you thought Dumoulin would drop Quintana - played cat and mouse as Quintana and Martin came from behind.
Roche was the first to attack, seeming to grind a big gear, grimacing, and never even gapping Chaves, falling back afterwards. Chaves led out the sprint on the narrow roads, and though Dumoulin threatened to come around him, the Dutchman finally cracked in the final few metres. Behind, Roche came in third, and his compatriot Martin in fourth.
When interviewed, Chaves said: "I felt it was my moment. I was in a good position, and I got the jersey. Dumoulin said: "I didn't pull...I knew Chaves was stronger. I cannot be disappointed, it means a lot to me," while Roche confessed that "the plan wasn't to work for me...I thought I'd follow Quintana's wheel, and I got too optimistic in the last 500 metres when I had nothing left."
Chaves won the stage to take the red, green, polka-dot and white jerseys, but the main things raised by this stage are questions. Is Quintana okay? Is Froome? Is Nibali? Is Van Garderen? With his good ride today, has Aru got the leadership of Astana? The answers will be revealed in the rest of the Vuelta.