By Sue George
The inaugural Tour of Missouri in 2007 generated 26.2 million [US] dollars of economic activity over its six days as announced at a press conference held Wednesday morning. Building upon last year's success, the 2008 event, to be held from September 8 to 14, will grow by one day and stage and keep its spot on the calendar - this year between the Olympic Games in Beijing, China, and the World Championships in Italy.
"It was a great opportunity to showcase our state and what we call the 'Show me' state has to offer," said Governor Matt Blunt after announcing the results of an economic study conducted by the University of Missouri in Columbia.
"The Tour started with a simple idea," said Governor Blunt from Jefferson City about the origins of the event. "I had a friend who was an avid cyclist and had seen the Tour of Georgia. Almost 18 months of work paid off when we were awarded status of a sanctioned event." The Governor was excited to have the reigning Tour de France champion Alberto Contador (then of Team Discovery) at the Tour of Missouri last September.
He also estimated that more than 360,000 spectators watched the event and spent 21 million dollars locally in restaurants, shops and other businesses. He emphasized the importance of the world-wide exposure gained by the state.
"What you have is a whole bunch of people around the world who may never have heard of Missouri now do know," said Blunt who said viewers in 73 countries watched the streaming live video and 22 million people watched coverage on television. "It was thanks to the largest sporting event ever held in Missouri, which was free to the visiting public."
Joking about one of the advantages of this year's longer event enabling the race to visit more towns, Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder said, "A few less towns will be angry at me this year."
New host cities on the 2008 itinerary include Rolla, Saint James, Hermann and St. Joseph. In total, the 2008 Tour will feature five road races, one individual time trial and one circuit race. The hilliest stages are expected to be stage four from Lebanon to Rolla and stage six from Hermann to Saint Charles.
Both last year's winner George Hincapie and his then team-mate Levi Leipheimer are committed to racing the 2008 edition. Organizers are currently negotiating with various ProTour teams and will announce details of the more than 600 mile (966 kilometers) route in June.
2008 Tour of Missouri Host Cities
Stage 1: St. Joseph to Kansas City (road race)
Stage 2: Clinton to Springfield (road race)
Stage 3: Branson (individual time trial)
Stage 4: Lebanon to Rolla (road race)
Stage 5: Saint James to Jefferson City (road race)
Stage 6: Hermann to Saint Charles (road race)
Stage 7: Saint Louis (circuit race)