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Tour of Missouri - 2.1

USA, September 8-14, 2008

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Stage 7 - September 14: St. Louis Criterium, 79 miles

Complete live report

Live coverage by Mark Zalewski with additional reporting from Kirsten Robbins in St. Louis

12:10 CDT   
Please join us for live coverage of stage seven, which will run 70 miles in an urban circuit race around St. Louis. Coverage will begin at 2:00 p.m. local time.

12:20 CDT   
Officials have notified Cyclingnews that the course will be shortened to 10.5 miles circuits because of flooding in St. Louis' Forest Park from overnight rain. However, the race will begin on time and do the same amount of laps, but only run 50 miles.

13:40 CDT   
With only 50 miles to race and no neutral this should mean a fast start -- more like a criterium start than a road race!

13:57 CDT   
And we are hearing the announcement of the riders in the respective leader's jerseys, culminating with Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Chipotle) in the GC yellow. It should be a relatively easier day for the team, with a shortened circuit race of 50 miles and no hills to speak of.

14:00 CDT   
The circuit (except for the change due to weather) is identical to last year, except that the finish line is two blocks closer to the city centre. This will make it slightly uphill (and we mean slight) and should avoid the nasty crash to Brad Huff (Jelly Belly) from last year, due to the fencing moving in on the riders.

14:01 CDT    1miles/52miles to go
And we have an early attack from Toyota-United as we roll west out of downtown. There is some wind today, swirling around the downtown.

14:03 CDT    1miles/52miles to go
A group of three tried to join the Toyota rider, but the field responded and we are quickly all back together.

14:05 CDT   
We spoke with Chuck Hodge, the technical director of the race. He had a sleepless night last night, dealing with the weather. Apparently, the wind blew all of the No Parking signs off the course, which could cause some problems! But all looks clear so far on our first lap.

Colavita-Sutter Home is leading the compacto field.

14:08 CDT    3miles/50miles to go
A solo attack from a BMC rider now, with the field chasing hard as we roll past the Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

14:09 CDT   
The quick action to modify the course has resulted in a few tight turns on the new course. As well there are still some random showers wetting the area.

Columbia leads the field and reels in the BMC rider.

14:11 CDT    4miles/49miles to go
Bissell and Health Net-Maxxis are the next to attack. Despite the weather nice crowds have lined much of the course — but with their rain gear!

14:11 CDT   
Jelly Belly, Colavita and Sparkasse also have riders in the break as the rain picks up now.

14:13 CDT    5miles/48miles to go
Kirk O'Bee (Health Net p/b Maxxis) and Jeremy Powers (Jelly Belly Cycling Team) are off the front with two chasers behind them. The gap is just 15 seconds right now.

14:15 CDT    6miles/47miles to go
The gap is still 15 seconds but the two chasers have been caught by the Garmin-Chipotle driven field.

A Kelly Benefits-Medifast rider now tries to bridge.

14:17 CDT   
The riders saw the sprint line this lap, but it was not a sprint this lap.

Reid Mumford (Kelly Benefit Strategies - Medifast) is the solo chaser at 15 seconds and 20 seconds for the field.

14:21 CDT    9miles/44miles to go
Mumford was caught by the field, with Garmin-Chipotle on the front. Our two leaders now have 30 seconds.

14:23 CDT    10miles/43miles to go
One lap is down and now we have sun instead of rain. 45 seconds for the two leaders.

14:26 CDT   
The course is mostly wide roads. But if anything is like the previous stages this week, the wider the road the bigger the crashes. Rock Racing has been hurt the most by these as they are down to only two riders. But one of them, Mike Creed, is now trying to bridge to the break. His teammate, Cesar Grajales told us this morning that he broke three ribs in yesterday's crash.

14:28 CDT    12miles/41miles to go
The gap is holding at around 45 seconds, with the chasers brought back into the field. It looks like that brief rain shower has convinced some spectators to find cover.

Michael Barry (Columbia) has a mechanical and is now riding back through the race caravan.

14:30 CDT   
There is a sprint this lap, with points of 5,3,1 as well as time bonuses of 3,2,1. As well, the winner will get a $500 prime.

Oh yippie, more rain! A special thanks to our friends from Mavic who have graciously allowed us to ride shotgun in their Saab 9-3, as our blimp was grounded due to Hurricane Ike.

14:33 CDT   
A Kelly Benefits and Rock Racing rider are trying to bridge now. It seems that Columbia is content to ride for a field sprint, conceding the overall to Garmin-Chipotle. Their captain George Hincapie said before the race, "We would like to keep things as safe as possible today and most likely be happy with a field sprint. Garmin did a great job protecting Vande Velde this week."

14:34 CDT    14miles/39miles to go
The chasers are caught and the gap remains at 1 minute for our two leaders. Jeremy Powers must be looking to get some base miles for 'cross season, starting next weekend with Star Cross.

14:36 CDT   
The two leaders are seeing 1km to the sprint with a 1'10" gap on the field. All but one point and bonus second will be up the road, but sprint leader Mark Cavendish (Columbia) is pretty secure in his jersey — as is Vande Velde in the yellow.

14:37 CDT    16miles/37miles to go
And just as we mention Cavendish he has a rear flat.

The two riders cross the sprint line without a thought about it, but with Powers in front of O'Bee.

14:39 CDT   
Kelly Benefits is intent on making it into this break, and sends another rider off the front. They too have had a rough week with crashes, with assistant DS Ken Mills telling us he is only starting only five riders today.

The rain has stopped and the sun is trying to come out. Back in the field we are having a nature break.

The sprint in the field was taken by Justin Spinelli (Kelly Benefits Strategies-Medifast) as he tried to bridge.

14:40 CDT   
As Cavendish is paced back into the field, we will share with you what he shared with us before the race. "Everyone is so friendly here and making us feel so welcome. I'm glad we can put on a show for them. It was a dangerous sprint yesterday, I don't like to do it that way but I have to thank my team for getting me there."

14:42 CDT   
Race leader Christian Vande Velde is from just up Interstate 55 in Chicago (about five hours away.) But he was actually booed by the St. Louis fans when he announced he is a White Sox baseball fan, and not a St. Louis Cardinals fan.

"Its been a hard week on all of us but I think everyone including Columbia would be happy with a field sprint. Columbia did so much this week. By the way, I'm a Sox fan!"

The gap is now 1'35" with all chasers caught.

14:43 CDT    19miles/34miles to go
O'Bee and Powers are taking even pulls up front on very wide roads. Unfortunately, these roads will not make the windy conditions any easier. But with the group natural the gap has grown to nearly two minutes.

14:45 CDT    20miles/33miles to go
Former Health Net-Maxxis sprinter Gord Fraser is here guest driving the team car, and is currently on the radio to O'Bee.

14:48 CDT    21miles/32miles to go
The leaders cross the start/finish line and see three laps to go. This is also a sprint lap and a correction to before, this will carry the $500 prime. The gap is now 2'15"

Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Pro Cycling) seems to be done for the day as he drifts out of the caravan.

14:50 CDT   
A few more mechanicals are happening, including a Liquigas rear wheel and a broken spoke for Hernandex (Tecos). But Mavic is on the scene... as usual.

14:52 CDT    23miles/30miles to go
That was Jacopo Guarnieri (Liquigas) who had the rear flat, and he is rolling again. The gap is now 3 minutes to the leaders.

More fans are coming back out as the rain is stopped. A lovely couple has a huge sign saying, "Midwest Hammer-fest!"

14:54 CDT   
We are 5km from the second sprint. We have more natural breaks back in the field and the gap should increase still.

The Jelly Belly team car is now up front, maybe to give Powers some Sport Beans?

14:55 CDT   
But of course as soon as we say the time will go up, it comes down. Now at 2'20"

14:56 CDT    25miles/28miles to go
With the wet conditions, it is all hands on the Garmin-Chipotle deck to protect Vande Velde, according to their sprinter Tyler Farrar.

"Normally I would sprint, especially on a course like this but today our number one priority id getting Christian to the line safely in the jersey. Chann [McRae] will decide what we do in the finish."

14:59 CDT   
As for other sprinters in the field, clearly Health Net will be relying on someone other than O'Bee — possibly Menzies? And Jelly Belly's Brad Huff will not have to do any work either with Powers up the road. He was third yesterday and is the only Missouri-native in the race.

Last year Huff had a horrible crash into the barriers with 50 metres to go, but the finish should be safer this year (we hope!)

15:00 CDT   
The leaders are at 1km to sprint, and there is some cash this time, so maybe we will see a real sprint. Our guess is that O'Bee is the faster of the two.

15:01 CDT    27miles/26miles to go
But nope, it's a simpatico sprint with Powers again rolling through — but $500 for his efforts. Perhaps they will have a split in the parking lot after the race?

15:02 CDT   
There will be feeding, but only on this lap. Luckily the humidity is not what it has been earlier in the week, so it should not be as vital.

15:06 CDT    28miles/25miles to go
Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Chipotle) took the third place in the sprint, as his team is setting pace on the front.

15:08 CDT   
Now with the time gap going up again Dave Zabriskie ups the tempo in the field.

15:09 CDT    30miles/23miles to go
We are entering the feed zone for the one and only time and neither rider takes a bottle.

15:11 CDT    31miles/22miles to go
Two laps to go for our leaders and the gap is again 3'00"

15:13 CDT   
Stage 5 winner Boy van Poppel (Rabobank) has a rear wheel puncture. He and his teammate Michael van Stayen have been up in the sprints every day, and could go for another win today.

15:15 CDT    33miles/20miles to go
Lots of sun now as van Poppel returns to the field. Rory Sutherland was also off the back with an issue, but is returning as well.

15:16 CDT   
Liquigas and Sparkasse have pitched in on the front, with the gap falling to 2'30"

15:18 CDT    34miles/19miles to go
The leaders are at 5km to the sprint line, but there will not be any points or time bonus this time (not that it has been a blistering competition thus far.)

15:21 CDT    35miles/18miles to go
The leaders pass by the hospital on the course, which has a tricky chicane. So far everyone has been able to negotiate it, but with the crashes this week it seems appropriate that it sits in front of the closest emergency room.

Back in the field the 'other' Rock Racing rider still in the race has flatted — Jeremia Wiscovitch.

15:23 CDT    36miles/17miles to go
O'Bee and Powers are still taking turns, but with the wind some of the pedal strokes seem quite labored. Due to the wind today a successful break would need to have more than just two riders.

15:24 CDT   
Two riders against the wind, and the wind is winning. The gap is down to 1'45" as they roll past the sprint line.

15:26 CDT    37miles/16miles to go
Sparkasse is on the front of the field chasing hard now.

15:27 CDT   
I guess with the change to the course, the sprint did in fact count. Not that it mattered up front for the leaders.

Sprint 3:
1) O'Bee
2) Powers
3) Farrar

15:28 CDT   
Karl Menzies (Health Net-Maxxis) flatted and a few teammates have dropped back to pace him in, showing that he is one of their sprinters for the day.

The gap is now down to 1'35"

15:30 CDT    39miles/14miles to go
We are headed back towards the downtown, with a view of the Gateway Arch in the distance. The sun is now out en force and the temperature is quite lovely.

15:32 CDT    40miles/13miles to go
Colavita, Sparkasse and Liquigas all have riders on the front, followed by Garmin-Chipotle. The effort is stringing the field out and the gap should come down quickly now.

15:33 CDT   
The two leaders are into the feed zone and the officials have decided to let the riders feed one more lap. How nice! O'Bee misses the first bottle but is able to grab the second.

The gap is 1'15"

15:35 CDT    42miles/11miles to go
One lap to go and a nice crowd has come out to the finish to watch the sprint.

15:36 CDT   
Crash again, and it's a Jelly Belly and Tecos rider. It's Nicholas Sanderson (Jelly Belly Cycling Team) and Juan Pablo Magallanes Aranda (Tecos de la Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara).

Sanderson is looking for a new bike.

15:37 CDT    43miles/10miles to go
The officials are now pulling out all of the cars from the gap as it is now one minute.

15:38 CDT   
Sanderson needed a new bike, but his team car was up supporting the break. So he is out of luck and climbs into the Bissell broom wagon.

15:39 CDT   
Of course the field does not want to make the catch too quickly, so as to not allow counter attacks to have much of a chance. The gap is hovering around one minute.

15:41 CDT    44miles/9miles to go
Powers has his hands over his handlebars in time trial mode. Behind him O'Bee is matching his pedal strokes. But the gap is falling, now to 50 seconds.

15:42 CDT   
The leaders see 5km to the sprint but there are definitely no sprints this lap.

15:44 CDT   
The writing is on the wall for the leaders with the gap at 30 seconds and the field well within sight. But the two riders did their job for the day as neither of their sprinters had to do any work. But will that make a difference with Mark Cavendish in the race? The smart money would say no.

15:44 CDT    46miles/7miles to go
O'Bee attacks Powers and easily gaps him.

15:46 CDT   
The wind is still blowing which should affect the run-in to the finish as well as the sprint. It looks like a headwind for the finish, which is just 250 metres from the final turn.

O'Bee has 35 seconds on the field and 10 seconds on Powers.

15:47 CDT    47miles/6miles to go
O'Bee is a two-time US criterium champion but is in time trial mode now. He has 15 seconds on Powers now and 35" to the field.

Columbia is now on the front of the field with Sparkasse helping.

15:48 CDT   
Powers is going backwards to the field while O'Bee trys to stay away solo.

15:49 CDT   
Powers is caught and O'Bee has 25 seconds still but is still 7km from the finish.

15:49 CDT    48miles/5miles to go
Liquigas has a rider on the front chasing with Columbia and Sparkasse behind.

15:50 CDT    49miles/4miles to go
O'Bee is holding onto his 20 seconds and is just 6km from the finish!

15:50 CDT   
Columbia and Sparkasse riders are on the front and bring back five more seconds on O'Bee.

15:51 CDT   
That looks to be it for O'Bee with 5km to go, he has ten seconds but the field is charging hard now.

15:52 CDT    50miles/3miles to go
O'Bee sits up and it is all together.

15:53 CDT   
Columbia and Sparkass are on the front keeping the pace high.

15:53 CDT   
The field comes up an exit ramp and is all wide roads for the rest of the day.

15:54 CDT   
3km to go with two Columbia riders on the front.

15:55 CDT    51miles/2miles to go
Two riders from Bissell are also up front as Health Net takes over the front with one rider.

15:55 CDT   
Jelly Belly is also on the front and the field is at 38 mph!

15:55 CDT   
The Jelly Belly is trying to attack but it is too fast. BMC and Toyota are now moving up.

15:56 CDT   
Toyota is looking for Dominguez and the field is at 1km to go!

15:56 CDT    52miles/1miles to go
Columbia takes over at 500 metres with two turns to go.

15:56 CDT   
The final turn and it is Columbia on point with Health Net behind.

15:57 CDT   
100 metres, still Columbia.

15:57 CDT    53miles/0miles to go
But it's Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas) who takes it!

16:01 CDT   
We saw Farrar and Cavendish up there but right now it is only Chicchi confirmed as the winner, unofficially of course.

16:15 CDT   
The top five:
1 Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Liquigas
2 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia
3 Tyler Farrar (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30
4 Ivan Dominguez (Cub) Toyota - United Pro Cycling Team
5 Bradley Huff (USA) Jelly Belly Cycling Team

So finally, someone was able to get the jump on Cavendish! Or perhaps the Columbia rider was feeling generous and wanted to let someone else win for a change. He still gets to take home the points leader's jersey, and Toyota's Dominique Rollin will take the mountains jersey.

Christian Vande Velde gets the win in the 2nd Tour of Missouri, and we can be certain there will be some very nice champagne on the table at the team's hotel tonight.

Thanks for reading everyone!

Provisional results:

1 Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Liquigas                         
2 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia                       
3 Tyler Farrar (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30          
4 Ivan Dominguez (Cub) Toyota - United Pro Cycling Team    
5 Bradley Huff (USA) Jelly Belly Cycling Team              

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