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I don't know exactly how this stuff works, but I'll pass along what I believe to be true based on my observations. I had the same question a few months ago and spent a fair amount of time pulling the extract creation process apart by log camping...Don't take my answer as gospel, I'm probably only "close-ish".
The number you're seeing is the tuples ("cell values") being sorted (and/or compressed). If you look in the logs while an extract is being created, you'll see we often sort multiple columns together - so:
Sorting X values in column1 * Y values in column2 * Z values in column3 together = 186,462,745 tuples (not rows) retrieved so far.
Interesting, so it may just a wording change that would help. And that word would be tuples, a new one for me...