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Our previous race leader, Mark Cavendish, has dropped out of the race today. His team said that he's got a respiratory infection and the doctor advised him to quit the race. That leaves Thor Hushovd with a four second lead over JJ Haedo (Saxo Bank) on GC.
Hushovd also leads the sprint classification outright - he was one point ahead of Cavendish, but now that the Columbia-HTC rider has left, he is three points up on JJ Haedo, who wears the sprint jersey today.
Moises Aldape (Team Type 1) is in the mountains jersey, while Dario Cataldo (Quick Step) becomes best young rider with Cav's exit.
The racing is underway with an attack by Floyd Landis!
Chasing Landis is Francois Parisien (Planet Energy), the rider who was in the break all day on Tuesday.
Now we have Chris Jones (Team Type 1) going up the road to join Parisien in his pursuit of Landis, who has a gap up ahead.
We now have more riders bridging up to the chasing group, and it's not good news for Landis, who needs more space than this...
- 169.7km remaining from 175.7km
All those chasers just signaled an impetus by the peloton to keep a break from going quite yet. The field is all back together with only 3 miles raced. Of course, more attacks are launched straight away.
Sorry about the snafu with the start of the stage - we lost a few entries where we explained that it's a hot, muggy stage of 175km/109 miles and we're heading from St. James to Jefferson City. You know the drill...
We've had a new attack, this time from Gregory Rast (Astana), Jackson Stewart (BMC Racing Team) and Parisien who seems intent on getting away today. The fast pace of the field didn't allow the trio to get clearance, but it has caused a split in the field. 33 riders now have a five second advantage.
With the GC separated by mere seconds and no alpine climbs to provide selection, the best way for teams who lack strong time trialers to contend for the overall is to break away and stay away - and today is the day to do it before a TT man takes the lead and his team controls the race.
Today is a prime day for the opportunists, and they're all trying hard to be the one who makes it big today. The group of 33 was too big to stick, and they're all back together, but as usual we have another attack right away. This time it's Will Routley (Jelly Belly).
- 162.7km remaining from 175.7km
Now we have Brad White (OUCH) on the move, and he has a gap. He's bridging alone midway between the field and Routley - 15 seconds gap between the three groups.
Michael Barry (Columbia-HTC) had to get service for a mechanical of some sort, but he's back in the field. Meanwhile, Routley and White are hammering away, opening up a gap of 1:15 on the field. White is closing in - now just 20 seconds behind the Jelly Belly man. The field is falling further behind.
The yellow jersey, Thor Hushovd, has called for a nature break. That will help the break!
Our most aggressive rider, Matt Wilson (TT1) has had a mechanical incident, but is now safely back in the field. He's hoping to get a little bit of a rest today after his long time out front yesterday.
So far we're not seeing much action from the GC men or the ProTour teams. Most riders were expecting a breakaway today, but Michael Rogers of Team Columbia-HTC told Kirsten Robbins that he thought it would end up as a bunch sprint today. Unfortunately, their team lost ace speedster Mark Cavendish to illness, but he said that without Cavendish here, it relieves the team from having to do a lot of work, and allows the team to focus on the GC riders for the rest of the race.
He's looking forward to the time trial tomorrow and thinks it suits him. But with the short length of the time trial, he predicts that the overall GC will come down to mere seconds.
- 155.7km remaining from 175.7km
The riders are just 20km into today's stage, and it's been quite aggressive racing. But now the proverbial elastic has appeared to have snapped. The peloton is now 1:30 behind the leader, Will Routley, and he wisely sits up a touch to let the chasing lonester Brad White (OUCH) catch up. They come together at last - White will probably be wondering why Routley made him work so long!
Another rider who thinks the stage will come down to a bunch sprint is Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo). Surely they'll be happy to work to make that happen as their man Thor Hushovd wears the race leader's jersey. But Haussler thinks it will be Astana and Garmin riding for their time trial specialists Levi Leipheimer and David Zabriskie who will be interested in keeping the race together.
The attacks haven't ceased from the peloton, and indeed the teams aren't quite ready to wave goodbye to a break today. 10 riders have attacked, and all that action has brought the gap to the two leaders down to 55 seconds... then 30...
The 10 attackers were caught, but now a group of four have countered... but they don't get very far. But, the high speed in the peloton has reduced the leaders' advantage to just 15 seconds. The game is still on, folks!
Things aren't looking good for our daring duo as eight riders have now formed a group off the front of the peloton behind them. The roads are, like they have been all week, undulating constantly. Every little hill is a launching pad for attack. Now 4 more riders have joined, the group of 12 has just a few seconds on the field.
Routley and White have just 10 seconds now - but the peloton can see them and having something visible to chase after is always more incentive...
- 148.7km remaining from 175.7km
Just 17 miles in and we're all back together, but immediately the counterattacks fly and eight riders get away.
There is lots of action at the front of the peloton, and the Cervelo team of Hushovd has not taken firm control of keeping things in order.
The eight riders did not succeed in breaking free, so we can expect more action until someone can gain ground.
- 145.7km remaining from 175.7km
To give some indication as to how difficult the non-alpine but clearly not flat terrain is, the riders have done 1,000 feet of climbing today - in just 19 miles. All that climbing done probably less than 100 feet at a time. But still - that's a lot of powering up over hills!
- 143.7km remaining from 175.7km
All that climbing and not even a KOM sprint to show for it, too! In fact, we haven't had our intermediate sprint yet either. The first one will come at mile 28.5.
We have another attack - it's another Jelly Belly rider, this time Bernard Van Ulden. And guess who's chasing him? Brad White again! They're just seconds apart ahead of three chasers.
Correction, two have joined White, and the field seems content to let them go for a bit. It's Van Ulden with 20 seconds on three: Jeffry Louder (BMC Racing Team), Bradley White (OUCH p/b Maxxis) and Michael Creed (Team Type 1), with the field at a minute.
- 139.7km remaining from 175.7km
The riders are passing through the town of Bland, and it seems everyone has come out to the road to watch the race go by. There have been a lot of fans throughout this Tour of Missouri. Hopefully the politicians will see that and continue to approve funding for the race in the future!
Our trio is still gong after Van Ulden - they have him in sight. The field got tired of looking at the attackers and have let them go away. 1:45 to the peloton now.
- 137.7km remaining from 175.7km
The four men in front have come together and this should be our break of the day. The field is just fine with it, and have stopped to answer the call of nature.
- 135.7km remaining from 175.7km
The break of four is most certainly going to have a bit of TV time today as the field has let them gain nearly three minutes with that little nature break.
So who's got something to prove up front? Well, Mike Creed (TT1) is the best placed on GC. All four of them are tied on time, but Creed has had the best overall finishes. If they manage to stay away, however, there are bonus seconds on the line which would likely put one of these four in the jersey.
They're all 20 seconds behind Hushovd on GC - so they'll need to hold 11 seconds on the peloton at the line to take that yellow jersey off the Norwegian's shoulders.
This "rumble strip" which is in the center of the road has caused a number of riders trouble today. Tom Zirbel (Bissell Pro Cycling), Nicki Sorensen (Team Saxo Bank) and Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas) have all had either flats or mechanicals. The break is now 3:15 ahead of the field, and their team cars have been called up into the gap.
- 131.7km remaining from 175.7km
The leaders have crossed into the town of Belle - and it is quite lovely as befitting to its name. The roadsides are festooned with red, white and blue baloons.
The leaders are inside 2km to the sprint line.
- 130.7km remaining from 175.7km
Creed attacks for teh sprint line - it looks like he might have gotten it ahead of Louder. The two opened up a sizeable gap on the others, who did not contest the sprint. But they're sitting up to wait for them.
The four leaders are all back together after that little dash for the prime. They're taking the shortest path on the slight bends, whcih involves crossing over that rumble-strip textured center line. Van Ulden does a quick switch between the dashes to get smooth pavement.
The field isn't exactly lolligagging, but still the break enjoys 3:30. Liquigas, Garmin and Cervelo are all present at the front.
Indeed, the results of the sprint 1 were as we thought:
1 Michael Creed (Team Type 1)
2 Jeffry Louder (BMC Racing Team)
3 Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly)
The break is on somewhat narrower, and rougher roads now, and are back in hillier country, too after that nice stretch of highway.
- 126.7km remaining from 175.7km
Creed has moved himself into the virtual race lead with the time bonus in Belle. The bonuses are 3, 2 and 1 second for 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the intermediate sprints, and 10, 6, and 4 seconds for the top three at the finish line.
- 124.7km remaining from 175.7km
The race has settled into a rhythm now as the riders fight to stay hydrated on a hot and muggy day in the midwest. It's 86F and the riders are getting no shade from the trees which are well back from the road. The four leaders are working well together, with Louder now dropping back to the team car for water.
Back in the field it's a feeding frenzy as numerous riders drop back to the team cars to get water. With the aggressive first hour of racing, covering over 40km and more than 1000 feet of cimbing, they've already gone through the liquids they started the race with.
Creed dropped back to his Team Type 1 car twice to fill up on water and food. He's clearly in this for the long haul.
This 27-year-old started out his career with promising results - three times an U23 time trial champion and a former US pursuit champion, he's comfortable riding alone or in breakaways.
- 117.7km remaining from 175.7km
Creed was a member of the Discovery Channel team in 2005, but since then he's jumped from team to team before finding a home at Team Type 1. He started the season with Rock Racing, but his relationship with the squad was, well, rocky. They let him go earlier this year, and Team Type 1 picked him up. He's paying them back with this signature breakaway. He's a talented kid who isn't afraid to speak his mind, especially when it comes to dopers in the peloton.
Louder, 31, is one of the more experienced riders in the break. He's one of BMC's top domestic talents. He's more at home in the hills, having won the KOM jersey in the first edition of Tour of Missouri. He's also had wins in the Tour of Utah, Redlands Classic, a stage in the Tour of Qinghai Lake and the mountains jersey at the Tour de Beauce.
- 113.7km remaining from 175.7km
The gap is still holding steady just under three minutes for our four leaders, as we continue to get to know them a bit better...
And yes, for those of you wondering, we don't have a commentator email anymore. You can post corrections at the cyclingnews forum if I screw up badly. Like having Brad White in the break twice!
Speaking of Mr. White, he's 27 and a multi-talented rider. He won the sprint classification at the Tour of Utah last year and the KOM classification at the Nature Valley Grand Prix in the same year! (thanks Velobios.com!)
- 108.7km remaining from 175.7km
Our fourth breakaway artist today has his birthday tomorrow. Bernard Van Ulden will turn 30! He'd love an early birthday present in the form of a stage win today, but he'll surely get some tough competition from Creed and Louder, who are the most experienced of the group.
Van Ulden is one of Jelly Belly's versatile work horses. He's won hillclimbs, been 3rd in the elite nationals time trial, was third overall at the Joe Martin Stage Race, and was collegiate champion once.
The break is on flatter roads now as they approach the feed zone. They crossed over the Gasconade River, at which, if they weren't hard at work, they could rent canoes and have a lovely paddle through central Missouri. I'm sure that would be refreshing, but it's all work and no play for our peloton!
According to Kirsten Robbins, our reporter on the ground, Brad White's parents Bruce and Deb are here to watch him race this week. They are following him around Missouri. Brad and his wife Jenny are expecting their first child, a boy. Jenny is 8 months pregnant and chose to stay at home.
Van Ulden won the last criterium in the Tusla Tough Omnium this year. That was his first big domestic win. Versatile, indeed!
- 102.7km remaining from 175.7km
Back in the peloton, it's still Garmin, Liquigas and Cervelo doing the work to maintain this gap at the three-minute mark. Why Garmin? Because they need to get a result in Missouri as it is the home of their title sponsor. They are counting on their TT men to nab the race lead tomorrow.
- 101.7km remaining from 175.7km
The break has gone through the feed zone and are getting much needed fuel and drinks from the team helpers. Van Ulden drops to the back to stow his goodies, but the four continue to ride at a steady pace as the peloton is now lined out behind them.
Liquigas has now come to the fore of the chasing peloton, perhaps keeping things in control for time trialist Brian Vandborg. He placed fourth in the world a few years ago, but has since had some health problems that have kept him from top form.
The peloton closed down a few seconds on the leading four as they barrelled down the hill toward the feed zone, but as they slow up to pick up their musettes, expect the gap to go back out a hair. It's down to 2:55 at last check - but the gap has been hovering around three minutes give or take a few seconds.
The big disappointment for the Liquigas team was Franco Pellizotti's loss of more than two minutes on Tuesday's stage. He's no longer in contention for the overall, but he may hope to go for the stage win today. We hear there's a nasty little hill heading to the finish, and it could be just what he needs to put him over the top of the pure sprinters today.
Last year on this stage, the Rabobank team used that to its advantage to get the win in style. It was Boy Van Poppel who won the day for the Continental version of the team.
Now that we reminisce on that day, Mike Creed was in the break then, too.
- 93.7km remaining from 175.7km
The lead four are passing through farm land at the moment - so much of the midwest economy relies on agriculture. The cooperation between the four leaders has helped to maintain their advantage at 2:40, but the Cervelo team has now come to the front to control things for Hushovd, the race leader.
- 85.7km remaining from 175.7km
The finish today takes place in the capital of Missouri, Jefferson City. Situated on the banks of the Missouri river, the town is home to some 40,000 people. The Jefferson City Marching Band is entertaining the crowds at the finish - playing on the steps of the capitol building.
The riders are past the halfway point of today's stage, and now the field has pulled the break back to 2:00.
- 82.7km remaining from 175.7km
Despite its relatively small size, Jefferson City feels like a big town compared to the other places the Tour of Missouri has visited today. There are plenty of shops, street vendors and restaurants. Lots of hustle and bustle - more so today with the race coming in.
With more than 80km left to go, it will be a couple hours before the race arrives, however. Will the government workers hang out to wait?
The leaders pass by some of the local bovine population as they struggle to maintain two minutes now on the Garmin-led peloton.
Back at the finish, fans are about to be treated to a celebrity bike race in town. It's all part of a long list of events happening around the Tour of Missouri. This state really has gone all-out to support the race.
The peloton has decided to step off the gas a little bit and let the gap grow to 2:20 again. Cervelo is getting a bottle delivery up front - looked like Jeremy Hunt perhaps. The improved time gap has given our four men a bit more enthusiasm, and they're starting to pour on the effort up a little rise.
We're starting to see the terrain get a little hillier now - instead of short, sharp hills they're seeing some longer rollers. We'll get to our sole KOM at mile 70/km 112. Louder is pulling on the hill with Creed taking over after him.
- 75.7km remaining from 175.7km
They've hit the metric century mark and the peloton passes by a rocky ledge with a few fans standing on top looking down at them. The peloton is in a long, single-file line now as the gap has grown to 2:55. Cervelo is working to bring that down as they hit the painful looking hill the breakaway just passed a few minutes ago.
Today's stage is a little bit of cat & mouse. The peloton is metering its efforts to keep the break at a manageable distance, while the all-domestic opportunists in the breakaway are hoping that the field gambles too much and can't bring them back before the line. Unfortunately for the quartet up ahead, there isn't just one team interested in chasing today, as Garmin and Liquigas have shown already that they're willing to pitch in. The more riders willing to chase, the harder it will be for the leaders.
It's a good thing there isn't much wind to speak of today because the leaders are passing a wide-open field with lazy cattle staring unimpressed at the passing spectacle. If there was a stiff cross wind, things would be much more difficult for these four riders.
They're all looking quite good at the moment: Creed in the lead pedaling smooth up a rise in the saddle with Van Ulden on his wheel. White and Louder out of the saddle behind.
- 68.7km remaining from 175.7km
The break now has 5km to go until they hit the line for the sole KOM bonus of the day. The classification leader Moises Aldape won't get any points, but he won't lose that jersey today as there simply aren't enough points available.
Aldape will hang onto that jersey for at least another two days. There will be no mountain points in the time trial tomorrow, and there is just one sprint on Saturday.
Just a littie more than 1km to go to the KOM as the leaders enjoy 2:35 on the peloton. The gap has been rising and falling as much as our roads have today.
Louder takes the lead on the climb with Creed running a big gear looking like he's about to attack.
200m to go, and Creed is still in front pushing that big gear as a half naked man runs alongside to cheer him on. Looks like that KOM will go uncontested.
The peloton is on the climb and going much faster - we have an attack! Aldape follows Sorensen to get the remaining points.
Aldape gets away pretty easily as Sorensen gives up and goes back to the peloton without contesting the sprint. He thought he'd catch the Mexican off guard, but he was certainly paying attention.
The attack in the peloton, in part, is responsible for bringing the gap back down to 2:00. After Aldape is picked up, the Cervelo team gets back to work setting that steady tempo - virtually matching the breakaway pedal stroke for pedal stroke. We'll expect to see the pace pick up in the final hour.
We've got official confirmation of the KOM results.
1 Michael Creed (Team Type 1)
2 Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly)
3 Bradley White (OUCH p/b Maxxis)
4 Jeffry Louder (BMC Racing Team)
5 Moises Aldape Chavez (Team Type 1)
So Aldape pads his lead by one point over Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank). That puts him 7 points ahead.
- 57.7km remaining from 175.7km
The lead four are still working smoothly together but are looking decidedly more pained than they did before that climb. The tongues are starting to wag as they hold this gap at 2:35.
Lurking behind the Cervelo, Garmin and Liquigas boys in the chasing peloton is the Columbia-HTC, Astana and Saxo Bank boys. All of these teams have an interest in keeping the GC gaps small ahead of tomorrow's time trial. Columbia for Mick Rogers - three time TT world champ, Marco Pinotti -Italian TT champ, and Hincapie. Astana clearly for Leipheimer and Saxo Bank for Olympic silver medalist Gustav Larsson.
There are a few teams whcih have yet to make a name for themselves here in the Tour of Missouri. While Team Type 1, OUCH, BMC, Planet Energy, Garmin and Jelly Belly have been active in breakaways, Cervelo and Columbia-HTC have had the stage wins, we haven't seen much of Bissell, Quick Step and Astana. The Kelly Benefit Strategies team have focused on the sprints, but so far have come up short. Will that change now that Cavendish has gone home?
- 53.7km remaining from 175.7km
The lead group has shattered for some reason - White is dropping off while Creed has dropped back to the team car for a nature break. The other three will surely wait up for him as he is an important motor.
Creed is back with the leaders now. We see Brad White pulling through sporting a bandage on his left elbow. He went down in that crash on stage one, but doesn't seem to be suffering any ill-effects today.
The average speed today has been 25.7mph or 41.3kph. Not as quick as previous stages, but is quite fast for the amount of climbing they've had to do today - all of it one small bite at a time. The top speed of the peloton? 50.1mph!
The leaders are now crossing the Osage River and getting quite a nice view from the bridge. As it has been for much of this Tour, the road is smooth and newly paved. The sun beginning to get low in the sky is throwing long shadows of the riders and their bikes across the pavement.
- 47.7km remaining from 175.7km
Tom Zirbel (Bissell) has a rear puncture. He'll get some help getting back to the peloton from his teammates as he's an important GC contender. He was second in the US in the time trial and has to be one of the top favourites for tomorrow's stage.
The leaders seem to be saving their energy. They know that when the peloton gets close they will need to produce some violent efforts. There will be attacks, no doubt. For sure Jeff Louder will have a dig, and Creed is like a rabid badger when it comes to finishes like this. But for now, it's steady freddy for our leading four. Gap to the peloton is at 2:05.
Tyler Wren (Colavita) puts his hand up thinking he has a flat rear wheel. He bounces up and down a little to confirm, and then heads back to the car.
- 42.7km remaining from 175.7km
The Colavita team will be hoping for a bunch sprint today as the steep little climb in the final 400m could favour their sprinter Sebastian Haedo. But he'll have to go up against his older brother, JJ, who is one time bonus away from the leader's jersey. JJ is just four seconds off the time of Hushovd in the overall. If Haedo wins and Hushovd gets second, they'll be tied on time.
So how does the race jury break the tie? The jersey goes to the rider with the cumulative best finishes so far in the race. If the stage plays out with Haedo winning, Hushovd in second, then Haedo would get the jersey as he hasn't been outside the top three in any stage.
Haedo's been second twice (stage 1, 2) and third on stage 3. Hushovd has been third twice (stage 1, 2) and won stage 3.
The peloton is now getting back to business and the gap has fallen below two minutes for the first time since in hours. Down to 1:50 now.
- 38.7km remaining from 175.7km
The Cervelo-led chase has really picked up now, and the break is 1:35 ahead of the field as they approach the 40km to go point. The leaders are in the drops and pushing hard now to try to stay away, but bad news - Garmin is back at the front.
Perhaps sensing that the gap was falling too quickly, the Liquigas rider came to the front and called off the dogs. They'll let them dangle at 1:30 or so until they get closer to Jefferson City.
White is back at his team car getting bottles.
That effort by Garmin showed just how easy it is going to be for the peloton to bring these four back. It's as if they're testing the waters - putting in a dig, seeing how fast the gap falls, then putting that sum into their formula for the final kilometres.
Back in the peloton we see Floyd Landis on the wheel of Levi Leipheimer. Rumors had it that Landis would move over to RadioShack with Leipheimer next year, but the deposed '06 Tour winner denied this saying he was quite happy with the OUCH team and had no intention of changing.
Also present near the front of the peloton is Franco Pellizotti with his blonde curls blowing in the breeze under his helmet. His teammate is helping to bring the gap to a steady 1:40.
- 33.7km remaining from 175.7km
The four leaders see 5km to go until the last intermediate sprint bonus of the day. We'll expect to see Creed try to get more bonus seconds on the line, as he did in the first sprint. The Team Type 1 squad's M.O. is aggression in this race, and we're sure he won't disappoint.
Creed is our virtual race leader at the moment by virtue of winning that first sprint bonus. He's one second up on Louder and two on Van Ulden. They'll get to contest the sprint as the field is now 1:45 behind.
- 29.7km remaining from 175.7km
For those of you outside the USA who aren't familiar with these teams, Jelly Belly is sponsored by a candy maker who makes jelly beans in all sorts of flavors - from butter popcorn to kiwi to cappucino. Team Type 1 was started by Type 1 diabetics. OUCH Pro Cycling is sponsored by a sports medicine center.
The four leaders are pushing hard now that the field has eased up and are trying to get as much time as they can while they can. They've got 1km to go before the sprint.
Louder positions himself behind Creed to get ready for the downhill sprint to the bonus.
A school band is playing at the line and Louder goes! Creed gets on him, but can't get past and Louder gets the bonus.
- 26.7km remaining from 175.7km
Results of that sprint:
1 Jeff Louder (BMC Racing Team)
2 Michael Creed (Team Type 1)
3 Bradley White (OUCH p/b Maxxis)
The peloton is getting serious again as the kilometres tick down - almost 25km to go, and 1:40 at last check. Cervelo has the whole team at the front with yellow jersey Thor Hushovd positioned nicely at the back.
- 25km remaining from 175.7km
The leaders have 1:35 with 25 km to go - the BMC car comes up alongside to give advice to Louder.
Cervelo is getting help from one Garmin rider and two Liquigas boys. They'll have another 13km or so before they reach the two finishing circuits in Jefferson City. We're getting the leaders will get caught just before the circuit begins at this rate.
10km to go before the circuits, and the leaders are on a nice descent - Louder is in a deep aero tuck trying to get as much momentum as possible.
The sun is getting quite low in the sky now as the leaders hammer on the pedals inside the Jefferson City limits. They're fighting hard, but still working together. No monkey business as they'll need absolute cooperation if they stand a snowball's chance in hades of staying away.
1:20 to the peloton.
- 20km remaining from 175.7km
The stage has started quite late today in order to let the evening rush hour traffic get out of town before the race closes the roads. Van Ulden is pushing a big gear in the lead of this break as they lose another 15 seconds - down to 1:05 now with 20km to go.
Liquigas is at the fore of the chase now, with a couple lime green jerseys behind the Cervelo train. Could it be Pellizotti's day? Or are they setting it up for Chicchi? Someone is feeling good for them to be putting in this much effort.
The gap is down to just one minute and soon we'll see the follow cars pulled out of that gap. The riders are heading right into the sun as Cervelo has the peloton grimacing with the effort up a small rise.
Creed seems to be hurting at the back of this break. He's starting to weave back and forth a bit. Or is he trying to find an opporunity to attack? Gap to 0:50!
Leipheimer has a flat! Bad timing - he gets a wheel from Rast.
Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) also flatted - bad news for him as he was 3rd fastest US Pro time trialist and a contender for tomorrow's GC. 45 seconds for the break.
- 15km remaining from 175.7km
No attacks in the leading group yet as they head down the long, straight road into Jefferson City. 15km to go.
We see one Astana rider near the front - it's Leipheimer! He's back. Phew - that was a great chase by the experienced Astana captain. 40 seconds for the leaders.
Louder puts in a big pull up a hill as they head into the finishing circuits. Hushovd is right up front as Saxo Bank's Jens Voigt pulls his sprinter JJ Haedo closer up. Just 20 seconds for our leaders who are in sight of the peloton now!
It's desperately close as Zwizanski makes it back to the peloton. Louder puts in a big pull as he pushes to keep the break away. The field is single file behind ...
Louder is pulling away from his companions as he sees the capitol building ahead. He's got two laps to do, however. Lots of turns, roundabouts and spectators as the four has become three. Looks like Creed is dropped.
The peloton has the three escapees in its sights. Van Ulden pulls hard into a turn as they head toward the capitol "wall".
Several riders have escaped the front of the field but it's all coming back together.
White is the last man to try to stay clear, but he's going to be caught on the circuit. Two to go!
Saxo Bank and Matt Wilson in the most aggressive rider's jersey are at the front. Saxo Bank has control and there's a little gap behind them. A Bissell ride is drilling it at the front.
5 riders are clear - Two saxo Banks, Wilson, a Bissell and KBS rider. But the peloton is coming back together by Cervelo and Columbia HTC.
- 10km remaining from 175.7km
Wilson is drilling it, but the entire peloton is on him. Saxo Bank wants this for Haedo and Voigt comes to the front to pick up the pace.
- 5km remaining from 175.7km
They'll have 4.8km to go when they get the bell for the last lap. Cervelo is back at the front as we're all together.
Garmin, Astana and Cervelo are near the front as riders bunny hop a set of railroad tracks. Saxo Bank is taking over - it is a mano-a-mano battle for Hushovd and Haedo.
Now Quick Step comes to the front for the first time today. They're heading up the wall - it's short but steep. Not enough to stop someone like Hushovd.
We have an attack from Garmin! One to go!
It's Zabriskie, but he can't get separation. He's got an OUCH ride on his wheel but nobody wants to work quite yet.
Zabriskie goes again! He's got a gap! Can he hold this? The peloton is a big block behind him...
- 4km remaining from 175.7km
Crash! Hincapie was held up but riding.
OUCH and Colavita are down, but they're OK. Haedo the younger is on the ground but getting up.
Hushovd, however, is up front. It's all back together. We're not sure this was inside the 3km to go mark or not, but the crash caused a split in the peloton.
- 1km remaining from 175.7km
Cervelo and now Colavita have come to the front. They're inside the final kilometre!
Now OUCH takes a flyer with Hushovd in third wheel.
Cervelo has this in control and here's the wall!
Big Thor is getting a challenge from Haedo
And the Argentinean gets the win! He powered up the hill and nabbed the stage and the leader's jersey!
We're not sure of the overall leader, actually. If Hushovd was second, he should be tied on time with Haedo.
We're pretty sure Haedo will get the leader's jersey if they're tied on time. Still awaiting confirmation.
Daniel Oss was third.
Riders are still trickling across the line, coming in from that crash. Sorry - it was Cataldo (Quick Step) who was third.
The Garmin team is having a post-race conference on the side of the road, debriefing on what happened in the finale. Unofficially, Haedo is in the yellow jersey tomorrow. But, considering his time trialing abilities, perhaps it will be his one and only day in the race lead.