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Tour of Missouri - 2.1
USA, September 8-14, 2008
By Mark Zalewski
Fifteen teams are lining up for the Tour of Missouri's sophomore year – a race that is wasting no time in growing up. Now a full week long, the race will follow a similar west-to-east route between the state's two largest cities, Kansas City to St. Louis, with a stop in the capital Jefferson City along the way. Like last year the parcours will not be challenging in terms of climbing, save for the Branson time trial which seems to include every hill in the Ozarks.
Defending champion George Hincapie is back with a new team Columbia. But Hincapie might not be the top draw from his team as British speedster Mark Cavendish is making the trip, salivating at the plethora of flat and fast finishes. With Hincapie's time trial ability, combined with Cavendish's recent three-in-a-row at the Tour of Ireland, the potential for a clean sweep is not unimaginable. The entire team is rather stacked since they are not currently racing the Vuelta a España.
However the time trial battle should be a good one and again be one of the deciding factors for the overall. Riders like Hincapie, Garmin-Chipotle's recently crowned United States of America time trial champion Dave Zabriskie and Tour de France fifth place finisher Christian Vande Velde are all top time trialers. Though Liquigas has its younger team here, a young talent Roman Kreuzinger, winner of the Tour of Switzerland, is an overall threat. Tom Zirbel (Bissell) finished just five seconds off Zabriskie in the recent US championship and will be looking for a second chance. Canada's champion Svein Tuft (Symmetrics) is no stranger to hilly time trials, winning the Tour de Beauce in that fashion.
Again sprinting will serve better than climbing ability for individual stage wins, so domestic teams like Health Net-Maxxis and Toyota-United will be hoping to capitalize with their faster riders, such as Karl Menzies and Ivan Dominguez, respectively. Other sprinters include Sebastian Haedo (Colavita-Sutter Home), Andrew Pinfold (Symmetrics) and Missouri-native Brad Huff (Jelly Belly).
Possibly the only way to beat the sprinter from the Isle of Mann would be to get in a breakaway, and teams like Tecos from Mexico always seem to be ready to get into breaks from kilometre zero. This will also be the best chance for a stage win for teams without a top-end sprinter or a time trial protégé.
Cyclingnews will have live, minute-to-minute coverage of every kilometre of the race.