San Javier - Fiery French sprinter Nacer Bouhanni burst through the cloud that had been hanging over his Vuelta and led the dash for the line to win the sixth stage on Thursday.
"In the sprint, I know how to impose myself if I have legs," said Bouhanni who had trailed in the previous day last in the peloton.
Spanish media had reported that after the stage the Cofidis rider was involved in an altercation with team staff.
On Thursday, after the peloton was fractured by crosswinds, another French rider Rudy Molard retained the overall lead as the top five all finished in the leading group of 50.
Entering the final kilometre, the Quickstep team of the so-far dominant sprinter Elia Viviani led, but the Italian lost ground around the final roundabout.
Bouhanni, whose Cofidis squad does not contain leadout riders, said he "darted from train to train to find a good wheel and I produced my effort in the last 20 metres."
He held on as other sprinters gave furious chase.
Dutchman Danny Van Poppel of Lotto NL finished second. Viviani, who swerved across the road at high speed in the closing metres as he sought a gap, was third.
For Bouhanni it was a third Vuelta stage victory, following two in 2014 and his first in any big stage race this season.
"I remembered that four years ago," he recalled. "I had finished last the previous day, almost out of time and then won the stage of Albacete."
"I suffered a nightmare yesterday, I win today, it is incredible."
He said the reports in Spanish media were nonsense. Cofidis also called the stories "lies". But Bouhanni criticised his team,
"I have lived a very difficult season," he said. "When you feel that you do not have the team behind you, as a sprinter, it's difficult, everything that has been said about me since the beginning of the season has been hard and I felt sometimes humiliated, but I have always trained hard."
Friday promises another chance for the sprinters with a 185.7km stage from Puerto Lumbreras to Pozo Alcon provided they survive a third category climb with 12 km to go.