Team Columbia-HTC is planning to bring its prolific champion Mark Cavendish to lead the squad at the Tour of Missouri next month. The winner of six stages at this year's Tour de France will bring his top lead-out men to the American race, but it is uncertain whether George Hincapie will be included in the team's line-up. Still recovering from a broken collarbone, Hincapie is expected to confirm his participation within the next three weeks.
If Hincapie is able to start in Missouri, Cavendish will be joined by three teammates from this year's Tour de France. Australians Michael Rogers and Mark Renshaw are both scheduled to race. Michael Barry and Marco Pinotti complete the six-man line up.
"We're pleased to be able to bring a top roster to the Missouri in the hope of repeating our success of last year and to be a part of a great spectacle for the fans of cycling in America," said Columbia manager Bob Stapleton.
Columbia performed strongly at last year's race with Rogers claiming second in the general classification behind Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Slipstream), while Cavendish won three stages and the points classification. The latter has been racing extensively in the European post-Tour criterium circuit and should be in good form when the race starts on September 7.
"It is a very important part of our mission to contribute to the growth of racing in the US. The Tour of Missouri is a very well-run and promoted race that is attracting top teams from around the globe and is increasingly recognized as a top international event," said Stapleton.
The announcement of the Columbia team was welcome news for race organisers. Threats of budget cuts by the Missouri state government had put the race's future into question in July. The matter was resolved the same month and the race continues this year with its third edition.
"To have the world's top sprinter, second place overall finisher from last year's race, and the 2007 race champion all on the same roster coming, it's a beautiful thing," said race director Jim Birrell. "Like last year, they certainly should be a team to contend with for both the overall classification title and individual stage wins."