The flat route was designed for the sprinters but crosswinds threatened to create separations in the bunch during the 184.4km between Tarancón and Albacete.
A breakaway of three; Pelayo Sanchez (Burgos-BH), Oier Lazkano (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), and Xabier Mikel Azparren (Euskaltel-Euskadi) stole away early on but with 16km to go, they were all brought back into the main field.
A touch of wheels resulted in a mass crash that saw overall race leader Rein Taaramäe (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) go down along with Romain Bardet (Team DSM), and Mikel Nieve (Team BikeExchange), among others.
Taaramäe limited his losses to roughly 2 minutes with help from his teammates, but he lost the overall race lead. Bardet and Nieve finished more than 12 minutes back.
Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo) now leads the overall classification by five seconds ahead of Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and 10 seconds to Lilian Calmejane (AG2R Citroën Team) as the race heads into stage 6 on Thursday.
Watch the highlights video above to see how stage 5 of the Vuelta a España unfolded.
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