A long acceleration by American Tyler Farrar earned the Garmin-Slipstream sprinter the first major Tour stage win of his career in the Vuelta's stage 11. Overall, Valverde still leads.
Farrar was able to take advantage of the hard work done by Liquigas in the final kilometres and blast away with around 200 metres to go for a convincing win.
Up until stage 11 German Andre Greipel and his Columbia-HTC team had dominated in the Vuelta's sprints.
But American clearly had suffered far less than Greipel on the first and second category climbs earlier on the 200 kilometre leg from Murcia to Caravaca de La Cruz. In fact, Columbia-HTC were barely visible on the front in the final hour, with Rabobank and Liquigas taking responsibilities instead.
The ultra-long straightaway leading to the finish saw Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) making one of his favourite last-ditch efforts on a slight rise just before the last kilometre.
But the Swiss rider did not have the legs to go clear and a bunch sprint became inevitable.
Overall there was no significant change, although one pre-Vuelta favourite, Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank), opted not to start because of a recurrring knee injury. Fifth in the Tour, Schleck will now not be taking part in the World Championships.
As the Vuelta reaches its second rest day, overall Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D'Epargne) remains in command of the race, but Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) is just seven seconds behind and Robert Gesink (Rabobank) is at 36 seconds.
"There's everything to play for now," Evans told Cycling Weekly at the start of the stage.
"I would say that these three upcoming stages in Andalusia [from Friday onwards] will pretty much decide the outcome of the race."
Tomorrow (Thursday) is the Vuelta's second, and final, rest day.
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Stage 11, Murcia-Caravaca de la Cruz, 200km
1. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Slipstream in 5-11-10
2. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Silence-Lotto
3. Marco Marcato (Ita Vacansoliel
4. Inaki Isasi (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
5. Andre Greipel (Ger) Columbia-HTC
6. Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre
7. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Lampre
8. Christian Knees (Ger) Milram
9. Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
10. Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quick Step all same time.
11. Roger Hammond (GB) Cervelo
Overall classification after stage 11
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne in 45-37-51
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto at 7sec
3. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 36sec
4. Tom Danielson (USA) Garmin-Slipstream at 51secs
5. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas at 53secs
6. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 1-03
7. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre at 2-13
8. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 2-24
9. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Astana at 3-10
10. Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Ag2r at 3-13
Alejandro Valverde maintains the race lead
Tyler Farrar celebrates his first grand tour win in style
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Stage reports
Stage 10: Gerrans takes breakaway victory
Stage nine: Cesar wins as Valverde leads in Vuelta
Stage eight: Cunego takes first mountain stage of 2009 Vuelta
Stage seven: Cancellara outpaces Millar in TT
Stage six: Bozic surprises sprint rivals to take win
Stage five: Greipel wins again and takes race lead
Stage four: Greipel wins after big crash wipes out bunch
Stage three: Henderson wins stage
Stage two: Ciolek takes first road stage, Hammond third
Stage one: Cancellara wins Vuelta opener
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Photos
Stage 10 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery by Graham WatsonStage one photo gallery by Graham Watson
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