Garmin-Chipotle, Liquigas headline Missouri field

North American Professional Continental squad Garmin-Chipotle and Italian ProTour outfit Liquigas...

North American Professional Continental squad Garmin-Chipotle and Italian ProTour outfit Liquigas lead the list of squads invited to contest the Tour of Missouri by race organizer Medalist Sports. The two outfits join previously announced Team Columbia among the 15 squads that will contest this year's race from September 8-14.

"This is not an end-of-the-season fun race for us," said Garmin-Chipotle director Jonathan Vaughters. "This is a serious objective for our team. It's a major event."

Among the local race teams invited to the event is HealthNet-Maxxis, BMC, Rock Racing. In addition top Mexican outfit Tecos and Canadian team Symmetrics will also contest the event.

"Without doubt, this is a deeper field than last year," said Chris Aronhalt, managing partner of event organizers Medalist Sports. "We have three teams that played major roles at the Tour de France this year. We have all the top clubs in North America, and two top European continental teams that will surely be hungry. It is an interesting and talented mix."

The seven-day race starts in St. Joseph and travels to Missouri's largest town Kansas City before finishing with a criterium in the urban landscape of St. Louis.

"We have a unique blend of teams," said race director Jim Birrell. "The way the course is designed, it will take a very high-caliber athlete to win. We could see a few more lead changes than last year. With three top teams from the Tour de France and all the top teams in North America, there will be a lot of good wheels to follow."

European squads Sparkasse and Rabobank's Continental squad will also contest the 2008 edition. This year's Tour of Missouri will be the event's second running after making its debut last year.

"This event proved, in only its first year, to be hugely successful for all involved, most importantly the great host communities of the Tour," Lieutenant Governor Kinder, chair of the Tourism Commission of Missouri. "It was very successful for the state as a tourism vehicle as people from 73 countries caught part of the event via live webcasts and people from 21 states came into Missouri to see the event."

Last year's event drew a police-estimated 365,000 spectators over six days and provided $26.2 million of direct and indirect economic benefit for the state and its host cities.

Teams for 2008 Tour of Missouri: Liquigas, Team Columbia, Garmin-Chipotle, HealthNet-Maxxis, BMC, Rock Racing, Tecos, Symmetrics, Bissell, Colavita Sutter Home, Jelly Belly, Kelly Benefits Strategies-Medifast, Rabobank (Continental), Sparkasse and Toyota United.

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