The expected winds across the plains near Albacete failed to split the Vuelta a España peloton but sadly a high-speed late crash caused significant damage, with Rein Taaramäe (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) involved and delayed.
The Estonian cruelly lost the race leader’s red jersey to Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo) after finishing 2:21 down and slipping out of the top ten.
Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) won the sprint finish ahead of Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Alberto Dainese (Team DSM).
The crash occurred with 11km to race, a touch of wheels at high speed near the front of the peloton taking riders down like a bowling ball.
Taaramäe was caught in the mass pileup and appeared to need a bike change. The peloton eased momentarily in a sign of fair play but then accelerated again later on to fight for the sprint victory.
"Again, it was an unlucky crash, I’m almost OK, even my clothing was in one piece," Taaramäe said after the stage. "Actually, it was a bad idea to be in a good position because the crash happened near the front and the guys at the back passed but I was up there and it took some minutes to go again.
"Two days in the red jersey, that was good for me. It was nice to experience that and I’m not so sad to lose it. I would have lost it tomorrow or the day after so it’s not a big deal. We’ll see day by day but I think I can defend the polka-dot jersey more than the leader’s jersey."
Taaramäe also crashed in the final kilometres of stage 4, but was given the same time as the other riders due to the three-kilometre rule. This time he tried to chase with several Intermarché teammates, but couldn't get back on and lost 2:21.
Overall contender Romain Bardet (Team DSM) was one of several riders to crash hard. The Frenchman suffered some serious road rash on his back, a blow to his knee and other injuries. He finished 12:32 down on most of his GC rivals but is still in the race.
Mikel Nieve (Team BikeExchange) suffered cuts to his forehead, chin and arm but managed to finish the stage. His team later confirmed that he had stitches to his face and elbow at the finish line, but that he would be assessed further my team medical staff in the evening.
Ben Zwiehoff (Bora-Hansgrohe) dislocated his right shoulder but it was put back into place out on the road.
Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) and Miguel Angel López (Movistar) were caught behind the crash but managed to catch the peloton and so avoid losing time. López suffered a blow on his left side but Movistar said he was not seriously injured.
A cross-head wind had failed to spark echelons despite some fast racing but riders were nervous and packed tightly on the flat, straight roads.
A dozen riders went down, with others blocked behind. Forty or so riders avoided the crash and they eased for a while as sone riders chased and made contact. However, Taaramäe and Bardet did not make it back, ending the Estonian’s time in the leader's red jersey and the Frenchman's overall hopes in the Vuelta a España.
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.