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Tour of Missouri - 2.1

USA, September 8-14, 2008

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Stage 3 - September 10: Branson (ITT), 18 miles

Complete live report

Live commentary by Sue George with additional reporting by Kirsten Robbins and Mark Zalewski

10:58 CDT    Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of stage three of the Tour of Missouri. Today features an individual time trial over 18 miles.

11:01 CDT    The weather is great for time trialling. It's a comfortable 64 degrees and overcast. There's not much wind. Riders will start in reverse General Classification order. So those that are last in the race go first.

11:03 CDT    In 114th place, Justin Williams is our first man to go. The Rock Racing rider will be followed by each subsequent rider at one minute intervals until the last 10 riders, which will go at two minute intervals.

11:07 CDT    As the leader in the race, Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia) will start last. The young Brit has won both stages thus far by winning the field sprints at the end of each. Cavendish is an amazing sprinter, but he's not the best time trialist, so we should see a new face atop the podium at the end of today.

11:09 CDT    In fact, the time trial will likely prove one of the most decisive, if not the most decisive, stages of the race in determining the final overall winner.

11:10 CDT    Racing the course is no picnic. The course is quite hilly, with three total climbs. It ends with a 2.5 mile ascent to the finish, so riders will have to save some gas for the final push at the end.

11:14 CDT    The course starts and finishes in different places. It's not a pure point to point though as it doubles back on itself for a portion in the middle - along Missouri Route 465. It starts in downtown Branson and ends up to the northwest.

11:18 CDT    Tim Johnson (Health Net Maxxis) rolls off the start. Next up after him is Andy Guptill (Colavita / Sutter Home).

11:19 CDT    Sprinter Ivan Dominguez (Toyota United) is sitting at the top of the start ramp, ready to roll off.

11:26 CDT    Cyclingnews' diarist Rory Sutherland (Health Net Maxxis) commented to Kirsten Robbins earlier this morning, "It's such a difficult course for a time trial. It's not what most stage races offer in the US. There is a 4km climb at the end, pretty steep. Before the end though, it's really undulating." He added, "No rider looks forward to this kind of course."

11:29 CDT    Because we've had two stages for the sprinters, the guys who go last today are not the favorites. Most of the best time trialists fall somewhere in the middle of the starting order.

11:30 CDT    Our first rider, Justin Williams, has just reached the turn-around on the part of the course that doubles back on itself. He'll get a glimpse perhaps of those behind him to gauge his progress mid-route.

11:33 CDT    So who are today's favorites? The top three finishers from the US Professional Time Trial Championships in late August are competing - including national champion David Zabriskie (Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30), runner-up Tom Zirbel (Bissell Pro Cycling) and Christian Vande Velde (Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30).

11:37 CDT    We've just gotten a bunch of time splits from the intermediate time check at 15.7km. At present, Kyle Gritters (Health Net p/b Maxxis) is in the lead.

11:39 CDT    We don't have any finishers yet. National TT champion Dave Zabriske is up next at the start.

11:47 CDT    Garrett Peltonen (Bissell Pro Cycling) has set a new best intermediate time of 0:24:16. Meanwhile, our first finisher is within a kilometer of the line.

11:48 CDT    Kevin Lacombe (Kelly Benefit Strategies - Medifast) will be our first finisher of the day. He passed the first start of the day, Justin Williams (Rock Racing), while out on course.

11:50 CDT    Two more riders are approaching the finish.

11:51 CDT    Rory Sutherland is out on course right now. He told Cyclingnews' Kirsten Robbins before the start that he's been feeling kind of tired lately in races. "It's been a long season, but I'm hoping to pull it back together for the end of it. I'd like to do well today although I don't consider myself a likely overall GC contender."

11:58 CDT    Will Routley (Symmetrics Cycling Team) has the new best intermediate split time.

12:00 CDT    Cesar Augusto Grajales (Rock Racing) clocks a new best time of 44:13.12.

12:02 CDT    Mike Sayers (BMC Racing Team) just finished up. It's his last time trial. He announced his pending retirement a little while ago.

12:05 CDT    Favorite David Zabriskie (Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30) crosses through the intermediate time check with the best time so far: 22:44.

12:05 CDT    As the first favorite to go, he may set the time to beat, plus give us an idea of how fast the slow guys have to go to make the time cut.

12:07 CDT    Garrett Peltonen (Bissell Pro Cycling) sets the new best time of 44:05.62.

12:10 CDT    Juan Pablo Magallanes Aranda (Tecos de la Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara) had a wheel change out at the turn around. He is back on course. Hopefully, it didn't disrupt his concentration too much.

12:13 CDT    The riders are rolling in steadily now. Zabriske must be getting close.

12:15 CDT    Will Routley (Symmetrics Cycling Team) sets a new best time of 44:01.37.

12:17 CDT    It's another best time, this time from Craig Lewis (Team Columbia). He clocked a 43:46.00.

12:19 CDT    Christopher Baldwin (Toyota - United Pro Cycling Team) smokes his competition setting a blazing fast time 41:42.00. That should hold for awhile.

12:20 CDT    Svein Tuft (Symmetrics Cycling Team) sets a new best intermediate time of 22:12.

12:21 CDT    Dave Zabriski has 1km to go!

12:21 CDT    A new best time comes from David Zabriske in 41:01.58.

12:25 CDT    Rory Sutherland comes through with the second best time. He finishes 23 seconds slower than leader Zabriske and bumps Christopher Baldwin (Toyota - United Pro Cycling Team) down into third.

12:26 CDT    Sutherland just won his second National Racing Calendar (NRC) overall title. No wonder he said he was feeling tired!

12:27 CDT    Svein Tuft is still out on course. We'll see if he can hold a fast pace since his intermediate check. He won the UCI Americas Tour in 2007 and finished seventh at the Olympic Games in Beijing last month. He knows how to time trial - he's multiple time national champion.

12:28 CDT    Tuft was 32 seconds faster than Zabriske at the intermediate point.

12:30 CDT    Another favorite, Christain Vande Velde is just off the starting line. There are 23 more riders to start.

12:33 CDT    Davide Frattini (Colavita Sutter Home) starts. Next up is his team-mate Luis Amaran Romero.

12:35 CDT    George Hincapie (Team Columbia) is about to start. He won the overall classification last year.

12:37 CDT    A new best time comes from Svein Tuft (Symmetrics Cycling Team).

12:39 CDT    Tuft clocks a 40.24, an impressive 37 seconds ahead of Zabriskie.

12:41 CDT    Danny Pate (Garmin / Chipotle) gets his start. He's another of the favorites today - a very good time triallist. We'll see how he goes up against Tuft.

12:43 CDT    As a reminder, once we get to the final ten riders to start, they will get two minutes, instead of one, in between each.

12:47 CDT    David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit Strategies - Medifast) crashed out on course, but it looks like he will still finish.

12:47 CDT    Blake Caldwell (Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30) has also crashed, but he is not so lucky. He blew a turn and crashed and will not finish today.

12:48 CDT    Caldwell is getting medical attention.

12:52 CDT    Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) puts in a good performance and finishes in the top 10 with a 41:45.91. He'll probably get bumped down though as more of the favorites come through.

12:55 CDT    Some good news on Caldwell. He is alert and moving, but it looks like he will be transported to a hospital for further medical attention. What a tough way to have to leave the race.

12:56 CDT    Christian Vande Velde (Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30) sets a new best split time with 21.55.00.

12:58 CDT    Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) puts in a good ride. He crosses the line in third place, 42 seconds back from leader Tuft.

12:59 CDT    "It's still up in the air right now," Tuft is saying while in the hot seat as his challengers are still out on course. "Until it is over I don't get too confident. I am worried about some of those main guys like Vande Velde, Pate..."

13:00 CDT    Tuft said he found the entire course to be really difficult, which means factors like the wind aren't as important. "It's all hard," he said.

13:01 CDT    George Hincapie (Team Columbia), wearing his #1 as last year's winner, comes through with an intermediate split of 22:25.

13:01 CDT    Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia) is at the start, getting ready to go as the last rider of the day.

13:04 CDT    Tom Danielson (Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30) has done a solid ride today, too. He's just 51 seconds behind leader Tuft as he finishes.

13:04 CDT    George Hincapie looks good out on course as he passes another rider. That's got to be a confidence booster.

13:06 CDT    Darren Lill (BMC Racing Team) gives it a ride that's good enough for fourth for now.

13:09 CDT    Clad in his Italian National Champion's jersey, Marco Pinotti finishes up the day, 3 minutes, 21 seconds behind our current leader, Svein Tuft.

13:09 CDT    Vande Velde gets 1km to go. He's riding really well and still looking good.

13:10 CDT    Christian Vande Velde (Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30) gets the new best time of 39:51.82.

13:10 CDT    He's the only rider to break 40 minutes so far.

13:12 CDT    Michael Rogers (Team Columbia) puts in an impressive ride to bump Tuft down another place. Rogers finishes second, behind Vande Velde.

13:14 CDT    Vande Velde set a time that has him looking to be set up very well for a possible win, but there are still some fast guys out there on course such as George Hincapie and Danny Pate.

13:16 CDT    While still out on course, Danny Pate (Garmin / Chipotle) passes one of the riders that started in front of him.

13:17 CDT    Current leader Vande Velde said he was unhappy with his third place in the USPRO time trial championships at the end of August. He said he went out too early and left too much on the course. Today's ride, especially if he can hold the lead as the others finish, could make up for that day.

13:18 CDT    Hincapie finishes up in 40:54.20. That's not good enough to overtake the lead.

13:20 CDT    Danny Pate is approaching the finish. He was the fourth fastest at the intermediate split thus far, about one minute behind Vande Velde's split. If Pate can't make that time up, which is unlikely on this tough course, Vande Velde is likely to hold on for the day.

13:21 CDT    Looks like Pate's already outside the time he would need to win.

13:21 CDT    Danny Pate comes in at 41:15.59 - also not good enough to take over the lead.

13:24 CDT    KoM leader Dominique Rollin (Toyota - United Pro Cycling Team) comes across with a 42:30.16. It's a solid ride for 21st place for now.

13:30 CDT    John Murphy (Health Net p/b Maxxis) comes across the line with a 44:40.01. He was the 10th from last starter, which means we now will have two minutes between finishers.

13:33 CDT    Boy Van Poppel (Rabobank Continental) finishes up with a 46.00.79.

13:36 CDT    We've still got more than a half-dozen racers out on course. It's unlikely that any of the riders still out there will best Christain Vande Velde, but someone could always surprise us.

13:38 CDT    Martin Kohler (BMC Racing Team) brings it home with a 42:54.71.

13:39 CDT    Now it's Andrew Pinfold (Symmetrics Cycling Team) rolling across in 47:40.82. He's the team-mate of Svein Tuft, who will likely finish up third today.

13:41 CDT    Michael Van Stayen (Rabobank Continental) and Tyler Farrar (Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30) come in. They started sixth and fourth from last, so we must be getting close to the end.

13:41 CDT    Sprinter Mark Cavendish was our last starter today and may well be the last finisher if he can't catch Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas) or Eric Baumann (Team Sparkasse) in front of him.

13:44 CDT    Eric Baumann (Team Sparkasse) comes in with a 45:08.07. That leaves two more riders with a few kilometers to go.

13:45 CDT    Cavendish, wearing the yellow jersey, which he'll probably give up today, sees 1km to go. He's on the final section of the climb.

13:45 CDT    Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas) finishes up in 45:24.65.

13:46 CDT    200m to go for Cavendish.

13:46 CDT    Cavendish finishes it up with 44:00.69.

13:47 CDT    All of our riders are in. So it will be Christian Vande Velde (Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30) provisionally winning today's stage in 39.52. Michael Rogers (Team Columbia) is second at 20 seconds and Svein Tuft (Symmetrics Cycling Team) closes out in third at 33 seconds.

13:48 CDT    By virtue of his strong time trial, Vande Velde also takes over the leader's jersey. Having been a contender in this year's Tour de France, we know he stands a good chance of being able to defend the lead throughout the rest of the race, especially with a strong Garmin / Chipotle team on his side.

13:51 CDT    That wraps up our coverage of the Tour of Missouri today. Please join us on Thursday for stage four, 95 miles from Lebanon to Rolla. Coverage will begin at 11:00 am local time.

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