Yes, all games are nested games.I'd put it slightly differently. In fact, this is what I like about Pinot, he cares about more than just the scoreboard, and you can see it in the way he rides and the way he carries himself.
However, when you don't care to play the game you ruin your chances. Had he just paced that climb to the kite at a few watts below threshold he probably would've destroyed both of them in the sprint had Rubio even managed to hang on. Or had he just paced Cepeda a bit on the climb after that last attack. Or followed Rubio's wheel instead of Cepeda's in the sprint. But yeah, he got into an entertaining but inconsequential tiff with Jefferson and ended up undermining a massive shot at a stage win and a few seconds in the GC as well. Cycling is a game but it's also a show, and I'll take entertaining but self-sabotaging over pragmatic and uber-competitive every day of the week. You just have to live with things not working out in the end.
And while you could emphasise the meta-level of the show, I think today was more about the mesa-level of the feud. But going a level up or down usually goes together, eh. It's quite hard to align strategies across levels.