By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
The Tour of Missouri is back for its sophomore year, and is not wasting any time in growing. An additional stage has been added to make it a seven-day affair through the 'Show-me state' from September 8-14. The first half of the race is very similar to last year, while the second half shows some potential for improvement.
One of the biggest criticisms of last year's route was the lack of any significant climbs to really separate the field. The time trial in Branson was the only true climbing stage, but not was hard enough to affect the overall. It was the rolling hills on the way into St. Charles that seemed to be the deciding factor. While there are no road stages through those Ozark mountains to go with the same time trial, a few more rolling stages after the Branson TT should make for more exciting racing.
"In response to surveying a lot of the cyclists from last year's race, we've made it a bit more challenging with some more hills," said Medalist's Sports' Jim Birrell. "While Missouri doesn't have any major mountains, it is a very hilly state. We have incorporated some of the big rollers within the state and come up with some very good courses. One of our course advisors was Kevin Livingston, originally from Missouri, who rode at a world class level in Europe for almost a decade and was a great climber. He pointed us in the right direction."
Obviously, not every rider is complaining of the lack of leg-breaking climbs. Toyota-United's sprinter Ivan Dominguez said in a statement: "As a sprinter, I like the flat terrain, so more hills are not necessarily so good for me. But, there are three good stages for me in Kansas City, Springfield and St. Louis, so I am excited."
The race begins in the Kansas City area but in a slightly different start location in St. Joseph, while finishing in the same Kansas City location as last year, with some fan-friendly circuits. As mentioned above, the changes come following the Branson time trial with a rolling course from Lebanon to Rolla in the middle of the state – with race organisers claiming "six sizeable hills."
Stages five and six also look to have additional climbing as the race winds along the bluffs of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Finally stage seven will be the same downtown St.Louis circuit that earned positive reviews from last year, save for the final sprint crash. But that could be a moot point as the start/finish will be moved from Union Station to in front of City Hall at Tucker and Market streets.
"Again, the great state of Missouri will play host to these world class athletes from more than 20 countries this September," said Lt. Governor of Missouri Peter Kinder. "This year, we've worked to make the course more challenging and with a few new twists, including new terrain, new cities, homage to our Armed Forces on September 11th and another grand finale in St. Louis."