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Tour of Missouri - 2.1

USA, September 11-16, 2007

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Stage 3 - September 13: Branson (ITT), 29 km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Sue George, Steve Medcroft, Mark Zalewski and Kirsten Robbins

11:15 CDT   
Welcome to our coverage of Stage 3 of the inaugural Tour of Missouri. The first riders are away for the start of this 29-kilometer time trial and we expect to see our first results at about 11:45.

11:24 CDT   
There's a little bit of controversy in the Tour of Missouri pits this morning. In the daily communique teams receive from race officials, an announcement was included by a UCI official (Mr. Wauthier) about time trial handlebar positions that is causing problems for some riders.

I am paraphrasing, but the general language says that all time trial handlebar bar extensions (the pieces extending forward from the bike the riders grip when tucked in their most aerodynamic position) must be parallel to the ground. Knowing that a lot of teams have invested thousands of dollars in wind tunnels to dial in their riders positions on their time trial bikes, and knowing that for many riders the optimal position is for the extensions to be at an uphill angle as high as 20 to 40 degrees, this rule is causing concern for riders who do not normally sit flat on the time trial bar.

The most famous rider who rides more upright (in more of a skiers tuck) in this bunch is Levi Liepheimer (Discovery Channel). Team Director Johan brunyeel is said to be 'communicating' with official to clarify the ruling to limit the effect on his star rider. Teammate George Hincapie is not affected since he rides in a flatter position to begin with.

We'll let you know how this shapes up and try to talk to a rider or two to see if they feel it is a burden should they be forced to change their riding position on the day of a major stage.

11:32 CDT   
As for the race today, the riders are in for a bit of a shock to the system after two days of relatively flat riding. The 29-kilometer course is peppered with climbs. Reports are that the final five kilometers are riding pretty steeply as well. And the finish is uphill.

At least they have picture-perfect sunshine to ride in.

11:38 CDT   
The first rider on course is at five kilometers to go.

11:39 CDT   
it's Justin England of Toyota-United.

11:46 CDT   
Because of the hilly nature of the course, they are scoring a KOM in the time trial. Utah native Jeff Louder (Health Net) took the KOM in Tuesday's stage and leads that classification. There were no elevation gains that could be scored as a KOM in yesterday's 202-kilometer stage.

11:47 CDT   
Englund is in. With Matti Helminen of the DFL/Cyclingnews.com team right on his wheel.

11:48 CDT   
Helminen made up six minutes on Englund!

11:49 CDT   
Cameron Jennings (DFL/Cyclingnews.com) is finishing as well. These are the DFL/Cyclingnews team members that lost three minutes in Tuesday's stage when their leader double flatted ten kilometers from the finish and they had to go back and help him get back into contention.

11:50 CDT   
Rhys Pollock (DFL/Cyclingnews.com) is also in and has the best time so far with 44:26.

11:51 CDT   
Correction: Pollack's time is 44:58 bu it is the fastest time so far.

12:11 CDT   
With 22 riders in so far (and riders coming through every few seconds it feels like), Cameron Jennings of the DFL/Cyclingnews.com team has the fastest time of the day.

In the KOM competition, Justin England (Toyota-United), Cameron Jennings (DFL/Cyclingnews.com) and Sean Sullivan (Toyota-United) are leading. The KOM climb is 2.1 miles long and riders are being timed from the bottom to the top of the climb.

12:17 CDT   
Correction again - it is Matti Helminen of the DFL/Cyclingnews.com with the fastest time.

12:23 CDT   
The current fasterst time is from the four time national time trial champion of Finland, Matti Helminen (DFL - Cyclingnews - Litespeed).

12:28 CDT   
Helminen said he would ride hard today as preparation for the time trial at worlds. He called today's course very hilly and very difficult, but said that was good for preparation for worlds.

12:31 CDT   
Svein Tuft (Symmetrrics) is our new KOM leader for the day. The officials are timing all the riders out on the course for an uphill section to determine today's KOM.

12:33 CDT   
Svein Tuft (Symmetrics) is currently leading the UCI American Tour. He is a Canadian from British Columbia. He's the national time trial champ, and he'll be racing Worlds for Canada in a few weeks. He's coming back from being sick at the Tour of Venezuela, where his whole team became ill. Today, he rode as hard as he could, still being a little sick.

12:36 CDT   
2007 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) just came through with a 42:34. That'll put him in fifth for now.

12:39 CDT   
It'll be interesting to see how Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) does today. Just like at the Tour of Georgia, we expect him to be gunning for today's time trial stage win.

12:42 CDT   
Matty Rice (Jelly Belly) is getting ready to start. The riders are starting in reverse order of GC from yesterday's standings.

12:44 CDT   
Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) is still out on the course. He's riding smoothly and steadily.

12:46 CDT   
Dominique Rollin (Kodak Gallery-Sierra Nevada) is now out on the course and David Canada (Saunier Duval) is on deck, about to start.

12:47 CDT   
The top ten riders are starting with a larger interval between them - two minutes.

12:49 CDT   
Nathan O'neill (Health Net-Maxxis) is having a good ride today. He's already passed five riders.

12:50 CDT   
In fact, he just finished setting a new best time of 39:53!

12:52 CDT   
O'Neill is an eight-time time Australian National Time Trial Champion plus he's earned two national road titles.

12:54 CDT   
Ukranian Valeriy Kobzarenko (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team), who's sitting in fourth in the GC, is ready to go. He adjusts his helmet and gets the countdown. Three more riders are to start after him.

12:54 CDT   
Ben Day (Navigators) logs a new best third place time of 41:09.

12:55 CDT   
Leipheimer has Darren Lill (Navigators) in his sights, and he's reeling him in out on the course.

12:56 CDT   
We have three riders left to start: George Hincapie (Discovery Channel), Dominique Rollin (KodakGallery Pro Cycling) and Frank Pipp (Health Net). Pipp, third in the GC, is up next.

12:59 CDT   
Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel) has one kilometer to go. His team-mate, Hincapie is on the start line. Hincapie will be riding for T-Mobile next year, after the Discovery Channel team disbands at the end of 2007.

13:00 CDT   
Hincapie rolls off, clad in the yellow of the leader's jersey and to the cheers of the crowd.

13:03 CDT   
Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) is nearing the end of his time trial. He's getting 1 km to go. The last 3km of the course are being timed for the KOM.

13:05 CDT   
Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) stands up and kicks it to the finish. He sets a new best time of 39:37.

13:07 CDT   
Justin England (Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team) who was the first rider off earlier today commented after his finish that the course isn't the kind of course you can ride easy. There are no flat sections and there are plenty of twisty sections and tight turns to keep riders on their toes.

13:14 CDT   
Cyclingnews is also bringing you live video coverage for today's stage.
Check it out.

13:16 CDT   
Leipheimer's strong performance also moved him into the lead in the KOM, by one second ahead of Tuft. He said, after his ride today that he's happy to ride for team-mate Hincapie the rest of this race.

13:20 CDT   
Nathan O'Neill, who is sitting in second place, told Kirsten Robbins after his ride that the course was perfect for him. He pointed out that the harder the course, the more he tends to excel. O'Neill added that he was disappointed in how the race unfolded yesterday, but he was glad his team-mate Frank Pipp still got on the podium.

13:21 CDT   
Our KOM standings are now
1 Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel)
2 Svein Tuft (Symmetrics)
3 Nathan O’Neill (Health Net p/b Maxxis)
4 Jeff Louder (Health Net p/b Maxxis)
5 Ben Day (Navigators)

13:25 CDT   
The top three GC riders, Hincapie, Pipp, and Rollin, are out on the course. Hincapie still has about eight miles to go out on the course. Hincapie is looking good, with a smooth pedal stroke and a stationary upper body. If Hincapie is able to keep the lead until the end of the race, he'll bring Team Discovery yet another big domestic stage race win this year. The squad took a win at the Tour of California in February and the Tour of Georgia in April.

13:26 CDT   
Luciano Pagliarini (Saunier Duval) just finished in style, popping a wheelie as he crossed the line and entertaining the crowd.

13:32 CDT   
Hincapie has Rollin in his sights now. He's gained about 1.5 minutes of the two minute gap that separated them at the start ramp.

13:35 CDT   
We're in Branson today. Hincapie passes under the 5km to go mark. Chasing Rollin is good motivation for Hincapie - it's motivating to have your two-minute man in view. The riders are finishing at a different location than the start today, with the last 3km being generally uphill, with a few dips.

13:39 CDT   
Leipheimer told Kirsten Robbins after his ride "The course was really difficult. It was tough with big rollers and little climbs. There was no way you could this TT with any kind of a rhythm, but you could recover some on the long downhills. It was technical, in terms of how you gauged your effort." He added that he's happy Hincapie is in a good position today. "Everyone knows Hincapie is the best time trialist of the break riders." Excited to work for Hincapie, Levi added, "I've had a lot of wins this year, but George has had lots of bad luck."

13:40 CDT   
Hincapie crosses under the 1km to go banner. Meanwhile, Steven Cozza (Slipstream) has come across as our new Under 23 leader.

13:41 CDT   
Pipp comes in with 44:34. That time will hurt him in the GC standings.

13:41 CDT   
300 m to go for Hincapie...

13:42 CDT   
Hincapie finishes in 41:48.

13:43 CDT   
Leipheimer wins the stage today with 39:37! Hincapie will be in the top six or so with his ride, but he'll still extend his lead in the GC.

13:43 CDT   
Correction on Hincapie's time - it was 41:48. Rollin finished in 44:03.

13:44 CDT   
It's a good day for Discovery Channel - they win the stage with Leipheimer and extend their lead in the overall for Hincapie.

13:46 CDT   
To wrap up today, our top six (provisionally) are listed below:
1 Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) 39.37
2 Nathan O’Neill (Health Net p/b Maxxis) 0.16
3 Ben Day (Navigators) 1.32
4 Matti Helminen (DFL - Cyclingnews - Litespeed) 1.35
5 Danny Pate (Team Slipstream p/b Chipotle) 2.04
6 George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) 2.07

13:55 CDT   
That wraps up our live coverage for today. Thank you for joining us. Come back tomorrow at 10:30 am local time (US Central) for live coverage from Stage 4.

Stage four will run 214 km from Lebanon to Columbia. The race will snake through the towns of, Guthrie, and Ulman, highlighted by a sprint in Jefferson City and points available for the sprint jersey. The longest stage and potentially the most difficult of the inaugural event, the first part of the race will be flat before rolling as it gets closer to Missouri’s beautiful rivers en route to the finish in the educational center of Columbia. The race will finish near the campus of the University of Missouri in the heart of downtown Columbia. It will be a double bonus for Mizzou students as its Parents Weekend.

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