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Tour of Missouri - 2.1

USA, September 11-16, 2007

Missouri loves company

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

The peloton will visit St Louis during the inaugural
Photo ©: AFP
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The first ever Tour of Missouri is ready to go in the second week of September - a rough time on the UCI calendar to have a race, let alone start a new one. But that does not seem to worry the organiser Medalist Sports, or the folks with the cash - the state itself. With the Vuelta a Espaņa, Tour of Poland, Tour of Britain and Paris-Brussels all falling in the same week, not to mention another UCI race in America with the Tour de Leelanau, the race has a lot of company. This does not bode well when trying to attract top teams to your race and the teams that are coming from abroad are not all among the usual suspects. However, the mix of ProTour and UCI Continental European teams, along with the top squads of North America, should provide ample firepower for some good end-of-season racing.

The stages in this race are essentially five rolling courses starting with the first in the largest city Kansas City and moving east across the state to St. Louis, the largest metropolitan area and home to the well-known St. Louis Arch. These five relatively flat stages are likely to result in sprint finishes. However, there is one tough Time Trial in the middle of the race around the city of Branson, regarded as the 'family friendly' version of Las Vegas and the place where country music performers are put to pasture. The majority of climbing in the race will be done here and the winner of this will likely where the leader's jersey into St. Louis, provided his team is strong enough to defend.

Spaniard Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) will be another of the event's big attractions,
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Discovery Channel is not only one of two ProTour outfits sending a team, it is sending arguably it's A-plus team - with Tour de France winner Alberto Contador along with newly crowned US champion and Tour second runner-up Levi Leipheimer as well as former national champion George Hincapie. The other ProTour team, Suanier Duval-Prodir, is also coming back to America with a roster yet to be finalized.

DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed of Great Britain and the German team Sparkasse are two European continental squads that have experience racing in North America, both at the Tour de Beauce. DFL's Cameron Jennings wore the King of the Mountain Jersey at The Tour of Qinghai Lake in China, known as the world's highest race. The team will also bring Gert Vanderaerden, younger brother of team director and legendary Belgian sprinter Eric Vanderaerden. Sparkasse scored an upset in 2006 with the German national championship and brings Timo Honstein and Christian Lademann to Missouri. Lademann was a world champion in the 1999 team pursuit and was fourth in the 2004 Olympics.

Representing the top North American teams are Slipstream-Chipotle, Symmetrics and Navigators Insurance. Slipstream had a good showing at the US Time Trial Championship the other week, with two current and one future rider sweeping the podium. With the Time Trial likely to decide the winner of this race, look for Team Slipstream's Danny Pate to be a top contender. The Symmetrics team out of Canada has an impressive roster with U.S. Open Champion and 2006 Canadian Time Trial Champion Svein Tuft, who is also the current leader of the UCI American Tour, 2007 Canadian champion Cam Evans and three-time Olympian Eric Wohlberg. Navigators will also have its usual contingent of dangerous riders from all around the world, including Tour de Beauce champion Ben Day and New Zealand time trial champion Glen Chadwick.

Danny Pate will lead the Team Slipstream squad
Photo ©: John Devich
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Also racing to defend the domestic home turf is Health Net-Maxxis, fresh from sealing its fourth NRC team victory, along with the individual NRC victory for Rory Sutherland. The Aussie will be joined by Tasmanian sprinter Karl Menzies who will like the abundance of flat stages and fast finishes. Toyota-United's Chris Baldwin will be looking to improve on his Time Trial performance from the nationals, while the sprinting Ivans, Dominguez and Stevic, will be salivating over the sprints.

Kodak Gallery-Sierra Nevada is a team eager to show its worth in Missouri after being left out of the Tour of California and the Tour de Georgia. The squad's roster is headlined by 2006 Canadian Road Champion Dominique Rollin, five-time Canadian Road Champion Mark Walters and reigning U23 US Cyclo-cross Champion Jesse Anthony.

Cyclingnews will be providing live coverage of every stage from start to finish.