As expected, the break got away on the four kilometre climb early on, as Omar Fraile (Caja Rural), Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale), Natnael Berhane (MTN Qhubeka) and Ilia Koshevoy (Lampre-Merida) joined the original four front runners Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling), Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo), Walter Pedraza (Team Colombia) and Martin Velits (Etixx-Quick Step). They had a lead of almost four minutes at one point.
On the main climb, Velits and Koshevoy suffered and were brought back to the peloton; the break was down to six as Fraile took the ten points at the top of the climb to take the mountains jersey for Caja Rural.
Soon after the long descent, there was a small crash in the peloton, taking out Daniele Bennati and stage favourite Nacer Bouhanni. Bouhanni, while not looking at all comfortable did make it back to the Tinkoff-led bunch with 33 kilometres to go.
Up front, LottoNL's Maarten Tjallingii and Ag2R's Alexis Gougeard had attacked the break, and were extending their lead to 1'50" before the sprinters teams started to chase in earnest, and they were recaptured in the last 15 kilometres.
With 9 kilometres to go, Europcar rider Jerome Cousin chanced his arm with an attack, but no one followed him, and he was soon recaptured.
Giant-Alpecin had two men for Degenkolb - Sagan and Bouhanni were out of men. They fell away, and Degenkolb opened the sprint, Sagan on his wheel. The Slovakian moved to the left, followed by Bouhanni as Degenkolb was overtaken. Bouhanni tried to come out from behind, and nearly made it, but he ran out of road and Sagan won his first race since hin national championships in June.
"I am very happy, all my team mates did a great job. All the other teams came around us in the last three kilometres, after we had done the work," said Sagan.
The day also had a few DNFs. Burghardt, Tiralongo and Cancellara all failed to make it to the finish of the stage.