Missouri's future beyond 2009 uncertain

Lt. Governor says "herculean effort" to ensure 2010 event

While the prestige and stature of the Tour of Missouri has grown with each of its three years, there’s currently a question mark over a fourth edition of the stage race in 2010. Despite being one of only five 2.HC races outside of Europe and drawing its strongest-ever field, Missouri's Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder remained cautious about the event's future.

"Nothing is guaranteed," said Kinder at a pre-race press conference. "We signed a three-year contract to do three races and this is the third year of that contract. As things stand now, unless we race supporters can pull together a herculean effort, I think that's what it would take [for there] to be a fourth edition of the Tour of Missouri."

This year’s race will include seven ProTour teams and 24 participants from the 2009 Tour de France. Those riders include six-time stage winner Mark Cavendish, green jersey winner Thor Hushovd, polka dot jersey winner Franco Pellizotti and recently crowned United States of America time trial and road champions David Zabriskie and George Hincapie.

The 2009 Tour of Missouri faced dire financial problems in July when Governor Jay Nixon proposed that Missouri's Department of Economic Development cut back 1.5 million dollars for the event, nearly half the tour’s operational budget. The funds were soon unfrozen, however, allowing the race to continue for its third year.

"I'm not the one who made it a political football," said Kinder. "When the race came under attack and its existence was threatened, we rallied the defense for this wonderful event.

"When the executive branch sought to pull the funding in July, the overwhelming reaction and outpouring of Missourians all over, our friends in other states and friends around the world who rallied to the defense of this race said a lot,” he added. “I said it a year ago and I'll say it again now, if I have anything to say about it as Chairman of the Tourism Commission, this will become an annual event. But it will take a lot of people working together trying to put politics aside to do what's right for our state."

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