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Welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the 3rd Tour of Missouri! Today's 180km stage (112 miles) looks fairly flat on the race profile, but the riders may find that the constantly rolling roads to be a bit difficult as the day goes along. There isn't a flat bit of road in sight - nothing but up, down, up, down.
There are two KOM sprints today, and two intermediate sprint bonuses along the way.
The riders are glistening with sweat as they stand on the start line waiting for the call-ups. It's a warm day - already pushing into the mid-80's F.
Columbia-HTC's Mark Cavendish got a huge cheer from the quaint small town of Ste. Genevieve. The whole town has emptied onto the streets to watch the neutral laps. They'll do a 4.7km/2.9mi neutral lap before heading out of town.
The riders head off for their neutral lap of Ste. Genevieve. As you might guess from the name, this town was one of the original French settlements back in the 1700's. In fact, it's the oldest settlement on the west bank of the Mississippi. The town is decked out in Tour of Missouri banners - they're all quite happy to have the race pass through this quaint, historical town.
Jeremy Hunt (Cervelo) takes the opportunity before the racing starts to call for a new radio from his team car as the peloton streams through the streets of this nice little town.
Since the area was settled by the French, there are of course wineries in the area. Perhaps not some of America's most famous wineries, but it's still a popular attraction in the area.
Just as soon as the race hits km 0, the riders are out on lovely rural roads, but we also have our first abandon of the day.
Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Slipstream), last year's winner, has dropped out. He fractured his hand in a crash yesterday, and we guess he just couldn't ride comfortably enough to go on with it.
Tough luck for Vande Velde, who seems to be locked in a heated battle with Chris Horner for most injury-crashes in a year. Both Americans have had to battle back from broken bones all season long - let's hope next season goes better for them!
Our mountains classification leader Chris Anker Soerensen (Saxo Bank), will get his first challenge early in today's stage. The first KOM is at km. 19. He told Cyclingnews' Peter Hymas that he intends to defend that jersey, but knows it will be tough to do today. The climbs aren't exactly alpine mountains here in Missouri, but they're short, sharp efforts not always suited to pure climbers. The second and final KOM of the day is at km 38.2 - so they come early, when riders still have fresh legs.
Our race leader is Mark Cavendish (Columbia-HTC), who met all expectations by winning the stage 1 sprint. He also leads the points classification and young rider competition. Those jerseys are worn by Moises Aldape (Team Type 1) and Davide Malacarne (Quick Step), respectively. Aldape was also most aggressive rider yesterday, but because he has to wear the sprint jersey, there is no most aggressive rider jersey in the peloton today.
We've got five riders trying to go off the front, but we don't have ID's on them yet...
On the topic of Vande Velde, he spoke with our reporter Kirsten Robbins this morning and said that he wanted to continue, but he had broken his middle finger and wasn't sure how it would go with the braking and shifting. He was kitted up and ready to race, but abandoned in the neutral section, so we suppose he couldn't work the controls well enough.
Bradley White (OUCH) has attacked and gained 20 seconds on the peloton.
The peloton has yet to react to this solo attacker. They're busy enjoying the smooth, wide American roads and checking out the demolition derby car parked at the edge of a farmer's field. It's most definitely POST demolition derby...
The leader has passed the 5km to go sign for the first KOM, and his lead is coming down. Just 10 seconds now...
Kirsten Robbins also spoke with Viatcheslav Ekimov this morning. He's heading across to the RadioShack team with Lance Armstrong next season. This will be one of his last races with Astana. They have some good opportunities in the GC with Jani Brajkovic and Leipheimer, especially in Friday's TT. But he said today is a good stage for them, because it's one of the more difficult stages, where a break can go up the road.
Indeed, the roads twist constantly, and dense trees on the sides of the road put a break quickly out of sight.
White is caught 15km into the stage, and there is an immediate counter-attack by Jelly Belly. Five riders get a little gap, but as the road kicks up toward the KOM, only one rider from Garmin can stay away.
It's Jason Donald (Garmin-Slipstream) who is alone off the front, now with 1km to go to the KOM.
Our man Peter Hymas is in the race caravan with former Olympic champion Steve Hegg. He joked that the KOM wasn't a mountain at all - just a "king of the rollers"!
The riders pass by one of the many vineyards in the area after the sprint line... still awaiting the results.
Donald was caught right before the KOM line, so he did not get the points. Three riders escaped after the sprint... It's an aggressive start to the stage, and with all the constant ups and downs on the roads it will feel like a very long day in the saddle for the peloton today. We should see a breakaway stick soon.
In other racing news, the Garmin-Slipstream boys suffered two second places today - in the Vuelta, Ryder Hesjedal tried his best but couldn't get over Simon Gerrans (Cervelo) in the Vuelta stage. In the Tour de l'Avenir, Peter Stetina, racing for the US National Team but signed to Garmin for 2010, was narrowly beaten by Troels Vinther.
As the leaderes approach the first sprint of the day, the group has grown to 9 riders out front and 6 chasing.
Results for that KOM were as follows:
Moises Aldape Chavez (Team Type 1)
Chris Anker Sorensen (Team Saxo Bank)
Jason Donald (Garmin-Slipstream)
So Sorensen adds to his tally as KOM leader.
We're in a bit of a communications vaccuum at the moment, and aren't getting reports from out on the road. The riders are deep in the countryside of Missouri on a lovely late summer day.
We spoke with Levi Leipheimer this morning, who expressed his concern for Vande Velde. He felt bad that Vande Velde crashed on the first stage, and, speaking from personal experience, said bike racing is full of suffering and pain. Leipheimer himself is just coming back from a broken wrist he got in the Tour de France.
Leipheimer crashed in the Giro d'Italia, too - and you can win the very jersey he was wearing that day in the MoDogs raffle, which is being held by our own Jonathan Devich.
The raffle is to benefit the Missouri Humane Society, which has been swamped with hundreds of dogs that were liberated from tormentors when the feds broke up a huge dog fighting ring.
The race is heading through a national forest, and communications aren't getting through the dense trees. However, we do know that two riders have gone up the road after the KOM - presumbaly the second KOM - and have a small gap.
The group came together way back when after the first KOM, just in time for the intermediate sprint bonus at the Crown Valley winery. Mick Rogers won that one ahead of Lars Bak (Saxo Bank) and Tim Duggan (Garmin).
10km after the sprint there was a KOM - we're not sure of the results for that yet... but right after it Tim Johnson (OUCH) and Frank Pipp (Bissell) went on the attack. It didn't last long, however, as Francois Parisien (Planet Energy), Duggan, Anthony Colby (Colavita/Sutter Home) and Kiel Reijnen (Jelly Belly) escaped the field.
The four build up a sizeable lead, but Colby wasn't able to hang on.
The gap is likely to grow very quickly because the entire field has chosen to stop for a "call of nature" break on the side of the road. That will give our three leaders a prime opportunity to become the break of the day.
We had a nasty crash before the second KOM - half the Team Type 1 squad went down with Jason Donald (Garmin). Valery Kobzarenko,
Shawn Milne and yesterday's most aggressive rider Moises Aldape were the victims, but are back in the field.
As expected, the lead ballooned with that nature break - it's up to 1:45 for the leading trio now.
The breakaway continues to work smoothly together, currently heading downhill on narrow, winding roads with steep and dangerous drops on either side of the road. Riders have been warned to be careful. The lead has grown again - over three minutes now.
Way back 20km ago before the break went clear, at the second and final KOM of the day, Moises Aldape Chavez (Team Type 1) tied himself in the KOM competition with Chris Anker Sorensen (Team Saxo Bank) by winning the KOM ahead of Sorensen, who currently wears the jersey. Who will wear the jersey tomorrow? It will depend on who finishes first of those two at the finish line today.
KOM 2 Results:
Moises Aldape Chavez (Team Type 1)
Chris Anker Sorensen (Team Saxo Bank)
Andy Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Pro Cycling)
Danny Pate (Garmin-Slipstream)
Michael Barry (Team Columbia-HTC)
Despite the trees lining the roads, the riders aren't getting any shade since the sun is right overhead. It's quite warm and humid, so the Astana and OUCH riders are back loading up on bottles from the team cars.
The riders are heading through parts of the Mark Twain national forest. The land is named after Missouri native and author Samuel Langhorne Clemens who used the pen name when he published the Great American Novel - Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
The break is inside 5km to go until the last intermediate sprint of the day, and the three men are still enjoying a lead of 4:30.
The race has been pretty quick today considering the constantly undulating terrain. They've been speeding along at close to 43km/h average -that's 26.6mph.
The sprint is in downtown Perryville, where a bunch of men in American Legion uniforms are on the road side.
The three men in the break took up all the available bonus seconds on offer at the sprint, so if Cavendish wants to keep the leader's jersey, he'll have to get some more time bonuses on the line today - he was only two seconds ahead of Aldape on GC this morning. Of course, the break will have to come back in order for the Manxman to get those seconds...
The state of Missouri seems to have paved all the roads just for the Tour, because the riders have been enjoying buttery smooth brand new black top. The roads are nice and wide and a bit flatter now.
Thor Hushovd gets a big cheer from the Norwegian fans with flags near the feed zone. There are quite a few fans after the feed zone hoping to grab up some discarded bottles as souvenirs.
The route of this year's Tour of Missouri heads predominantly in an east-west direction, but today's course briefly heads due east with the prevailing winds. The riders are on that section now, but will head southeast in about 20km. They're heading back toward the Mississippi River, so the roads are getting less hilly.
They're also heading back into farm country - back toward the fertile soil near the banks of the river. It's corn as far as the eyes can see.
The riders have turned onto Route P, and the Columbia-HTC boys are keeping the gap at exactly 4:30 with a nice, steady tempo back in the field. There are signs for Farrar up ahead - that's not Tyler Farrar, who is currently racing the Vuelta for Garmin, but the town of Farrar...
Things aren't looking too promising for Mr. Parisien, Reijnen and Duggan. Columbia-HTC has the peloton lined out single file which can only mean one thing: they're going fast. Tucked in the back of the train is the small figure of race leader Mark Cavendish. He's looking at the race motorcycles, thinking - 'ha! I've got one better than that now!' He won a Harley Davidson Buell yesterday for the stage win!
Also near the front, but not doing the work yet, is US Pro champion George Hincapie. He's decked out in the stars and stripes jersey. Mixing in is the Saxo Bank rider Sorensen who is interested in a high finish today so he can keep that blue KOM jersey.
Amazingly, the leaders are still being given a gap of 4:40 - Duggan has been doing some fine work at the front of the break, as have his two companions.
If you recall, Duggan was the rider who crashed heavily in last year's Tour de Georgia when his front wheel went into a deep crack on a bridge. He had a serious head injury from the wreck, but has recovered well and is now back in top form.
The wind today is coming from the east, so the leaders are fighting a headwind as well as the rolling hills. Back in the peloton, the hills have caused the field to bunch back up.
Of course Duggan is hoping to get a good result for Garmin, who lost its GC leader at the start of the stage. Christian Vande Velde abandoned with a broken finger.
The people of Missouri really know how to enjoy the summer weather, and lots of people are having picnics along the road. They've got big umbrellas, a full spread of food and of course, cameras to capture the action.
The gap is coming down now as the riders are well past the halfway point now. Just 4:00.
One of the Columbia-HTC riders who is helping to bring the gap down is Craig Lewis. He is recovering from a bout of the H1N1 flu virus, also known as swine flu. Luckily, he was treated with antiviral drugs quickly and didn't succumb, but he was weakened by the illness, and even though he's been well for a few weeks, his teammates are still a bit wary of rooming with him!
Jelly Belly's Kiel Reijnen is keeping a close eye on his power meter as he takes his pull. He knows he has to keep a steady effort in order to stay with the break and to help keep it away. Go to hard and he could risk blowing up and getting dropped. Pull to easy and his companions might get annoyed with him and try to attack.
We're afraid the Columbia boys are keen to get Cavendish another stage win and they've got the bunch lined out again...
While much of the race has been on nice wide, safe roads, the riders have been warned of a little problem at mile 108 - it's a narrow bridge that has no guard rails over a creek. Hopefully everyone can keep from crashing at that very moment... else they could be taking a swim.
Break has been pulled back to 3:40 and falling.
They've got a while to contemplate that little warning and prepare for the next 37 miles how they will cross that bridge. But perhaps they're not even thinking about it - saying "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it!" yuk yuk!
The Columbia-HTC led peloton isn't going to bring the trio back right away. As per the normal strategy, they'll let them dangle up there, keeping just high enough tempo to keep them within striking distance. They will be conserving their effort so as to not have to go into the red to close it down, which would open them up to more attacks and leave them with less energy to follow them.
Up ahead, Duggan is hot and dumping a little water over his head.
We have some vehicles speeding past our break of three, but we're pretty sure it's not the following cars being pulled out of the gap yet. Perhaps it is some of the media who need to get to the finish line and set up? The gap is down to two minutes as they enter Cape Girardeau County.
The Saxo Bank boys are now lending a hand to the chase and have seriously reduced the advantage of the three riders up front.
Sorry about that, we got some erroneous information. The peloton is two miles behind the break, but four minutes in arrears. Our trio is doing great work together to hold this gap over a steady, concerted chase.
The average speed of our race today has fallen to 23.2mph, thanks in part due to the breakaway but also because it is quite hot and hilly, and nobody wants to give full gas on a day like this, still early in the Tour.
They've still got more than an hour left to race, the gap still hovering around four minutes for the leaders.
In the peloton it's Kanstantin Siutsou/Sivtsov tapping out a steady tempo with a Colavita-Sutter Home rider on his wheel. Could that be Italian Davide Frattini?
Colavita's man has come to the fore, hoping to make sure they get a shot at the field sprint today. Cavendish isn't the only fast man in the race - Saxo Bank has JJ Haedo and Colavita has his little brother Sebastian. Both Argentineans are quite quick when it comes to flat finishes and will find themselves going head to head against the fastest man in the world if this comes to a bunch sprint.
It's important for the domestic teams to lend a hand to the chase - Columbia has shown more than once that they're willing to let a break go if nobody else wants to help. They did it in the Tour de France, and they'll do it here.
The field is passing through Pocahontas - population 127.
Speaking of Pocahontas, the native Americans had a tough time in Missouri back in the early days of the United States. The Cherokee were forced to march out of the east across the country to a reservation in Oklahoma. Thousands died along the way, and near our finish today is a Trail of Tears state park memorial to those victims.
The kilometres are ticking down as the peloton speeds along, parallelling the Mississippi river as they head to the finish in Cape Girardeau. They've closed the trio down to 3:15 - thanks mainly to Columbia-HTC, but also with some assistance from Saxo Bank and Colavita. The leaders are on bumpier roads as they had through farm country. Some fans give them MORE COWBELL as they take a sharp left turn.
Before they get swallowed up by the peloton, which will likely happen inside the final 20km at this rate... let's learn about our three men up front.
Kiel Reijnen is from Washington state, but lives in Colorado. He is 23, and is in his first year as a pro. Parisien is the oldest at 27, and has won a stage of the Vuelta a Cuba this year. Duggan hasn't turned 27 yet, but will in November.
The break is on a really steep wall - so much for flat roads! They're looking pretty ragged on the hill, but fortunately it's not too long. Parisien is encouraging Duggan to keep the pace smooth.
Siutsou had to stop for a front wheel change, and perhaps this will help the leaders as the Columbia-HTC team might back off the pace while the Belarus rider chases back on.
So far we haven't seen the Cervelo TestTeam riders lending weight to the chase. That isn't going to make Columbia-HTC happy, but Thor Hushovd had his lead-out man Heinrich Haussler take a spill yesterday, so perhaps they're being more conservative on the Cervelo team today.
Jelly Belly was smart to get into the break today, as Reijnen's presence means they're excused from doing any work in the peloton. They'll be saving their energy to help Brad Huff try to take the win today. He's from Missouri and he'd be over the moon to win in his home state.
Other riders who could be in with a shout in the sprint, should Cavendish fail to negotiate the technical finish that includes a couple sharp bends inside the final kilometre, are Zach Bell of Kelly Benefit Strategies, Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas), or maybe even Karl 'Ten' Menzies of OUCH. He's a keen criterium rider and can handle the technical courses quite well.
The bad news is, that nasty guard-less and narrow bridge comes inside the final 10km. Hopefully the chase will be single-file at that point and everyone can negotiate the dangerous obstacle safely.
The gap is down below two minutes now as Duggan pulls on the front of our lead group, looking a little tired at the moment. Parisien takes over and they're hitting another small rise. The pain is evident.
Columbia-HTC is still doing 100% of the work, having put the other teams behind their entire train.
One rider we forgot about today is Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank). This popular character is making his return to competition after a nasty crash in the Tour. He hit a bump, lost his grip on the bars and fell flat on his face. He's back from the injuries now and looking like he's ready to help chase down the break.
Oh the pain! Oh the agony! The three leaders are hurting now, and the gap has fallen dramatically - 1:35 and coming down as Voigt moves into third wheel behind Michael Barry back in the chasing peloton. It's all Columbia and Saxo Bank up front.
The gap is down to 1:15 as we see Big George Hincapie stretch his back. He hasn't had to do much work yet - it's been the riders like Siutsou, Barry and Lewis - but Hincapie will be escorting Cavendish through the final kilometres, hopefully (for them) to another win.
The leaders have dropped Reijnen, and are now opening up a little bit more time. Reijnen had a badly timed mechanical and will now go back to the field which isn't far behind - just 1:25 minutes or about 1km.
Reijnen is absorbed by the bunch which is now being dragged along by Jens Voigt. He's looking quite strong - the good thing about falling on one's face is it saves the legs from damage... but he probably scared his kids when he got home from the hospital.
Now that Voigt is pulling the duo is losing time - 1:15 to the peloton as the leaders head into the more populated areas on the way to the finishing town, known as the "City of Roses". The leaders have passed inside the 20km to go banner - which means one thing: no more feeding from the team cars. That, and "time to get moving" to the chasing sprinters!
A group of fans is camped in a yard along the course, cheering the riders on with an air horn and flying a German flag. They'll be happy to see Voigt up at the front of the peloton in that case.
The race is switching between small farm roads and wider boulevards, and right now the leaders are on one of the former. There is a series of narrow bridges, the last of which is cause for caution at 7km to go.
The motorcycles are beginning to come out from the gap between the break and the field, but the cars are still there - so the break still has one minute at least. When it goes below that, the neutral service cars and team cars will speed ahead and get out of the way.
The peloton is having to tackle a climb, but Voigt is still in the lead with most of Columbia-HTC behind. So far we haven't seen a thing from the Liquigas boys and their lime green jerseys. Nor have we seen Quick Step or Cervelo doing any work.
Just 45 seconds for our duo and the cars have been called out. 15km to go for the field!
Attack! Parisien wasn't happy with Duggan's work and he's gone for it!
That was a bad move by the Canadian, because he didn't have the gas to get away from Duggan and now the Garmin rider isn't going to help him one bit. Here comes the Columbia freight train - chug chug chug - eating up the gap...
Parisien goes again!
Bad news for Thor Hushovd, as he dropped his chain and had to chase back to the field. That is important energy to lose at this late stage.
Duggan is back on Parisien's wheel, but they're not going to stay away if they keep up the antics. The gap is 45 seconds still according to race radio, but we doubt the truth....
35 seconds for the peloton as they twist and turn their way through some lovely scenic areas. It's very green with tall trees, in contrast to the brown corn stalks that are awaiting the farmer's thresher.
Parisien goes again - this time Duggan has to work hard to get back on, but he does.
The field is right there - visible, probably 15 seconds behind the two leaders.
The two leaders keep looking back, waiting to be caught, but the numerous turns have delayed the catch. In fact, it's opened up a little and Parisien is hammering up the hill to try and stay clear. Little does he know of the power of this Columbia-HTC train...
Now Duggan goes! These two have thrown the gloves down and are duking it out bare knuckled. This is tough bike racing by these two riders!
The peloton is like a hawk, circling overhead waiting to swoop down and pluck these little mice from the lead. Duggan is pulling smoothly, a determined look on his face. Parisien is behaving himself... for now.
Just a few seconds now... they shake hands and let the peloton rush by like a ... have I used freight train yet?
We've passed the danger bridge and the Kelly Benefit Strategies team has passed the Columbia team to get their sprinter Bell up to the front.
Poor Parisien, he's gotten a flat tire and won't finish with the group. KBS is on the front with Candelario doing the work for either Bell or Veilleiux.
5km to go and the riders are still on quiet roads, but are about to tackle the number of turns that will bring them to the finish. Columbia-HTC sensed this, and have gotten back to the front.
Big George is 5th wheel with Cav right behind. Saxo Bank's Haedo is behind Cav and now Hushovd is moving into position with Haussler behind Cavendish.
Cervelo has come to the fore to set up Hushovd! They've been swarmed now as Garmin, Planet Energy and Columbia all fight for the front.
Colavita is up there, too with Haedo the younger.
They're in town and now OUCH has come to the front with Karl Menzies - KBS is coming back up the right side and where has Columbia gone?
The criterium specialists are at the front and we're inside the final 2km!
A KBS rider opens up a gap on a turn up a hill - he's got a big gap with 1km to go!
It's Veillieux, but it doesn't work - Cervelo is coming with Thor with three men - where's Cav? On Hincapie's wheel...
Cervelo has the front at the last turn!
But Cavendish gets on Hushovd's wheel and has no trouble getting past him. He takes his second win in a row!
What a finish! Hincapie did not panic. He let all the domestic teams kill themselves in the final 2km, then cool as you please got onto the Cervelo train and delivered Cav to the perfect spot. Cav is all smiles as he gets an orange Fanta to refuel.
Thor just didn't have the speed to hold off the charge of the Manxman who now extends his lead in the GC. Still waiting to hear who was third.
The other result to look for will be that of Chris Anker Sorensen, who would have been careful to finish the stage ahead of Aldape in order to keep the mountains jersey.
It was JJ Haedo in second place for Saxo Bank. He took swapped places with Hushovd, who took third to him yesterday.
Thanks for following the Tour of Missouri with Cyclingnews. We'll be back again tomorrow for the third stage from Farmington to Rolla as we head away from the Mississippi.