By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
Though the organisers have been unusually quiet, the first Tour of Missouri is still a go for September -- and promoters Medalist Sports have finally released the details on the race, including course descriptions and a partial list of teams accepting invitations.
It was recently announced that Discovery Channel would be one of the teams, and having won the two other major stage races in America plus a certain race in France, its presence will certainly help get the race off the ground . Medalist's Chris Aronhalt told Cyclingnews that two other ProTour teams, Saunier Duval-Prodir and Predictor-Lotto, have also accepted invitations. " We are also working on one or two more ProTour teams," he added.
The overall parcours is a natural progression across the state, linking the two biggest cities from Kansas City to St. Louis, while traveling to important places such as Springfield, Columbia and Branson -- the third largest city, home of the state university and a country music mecca, respectively. "Certainly starting out, the governor's office's goal was to create a stage race like the Tour of California and Georgia," said Aronhalt. "Missouri is a very cycling-friendly state so the learning curve was not steep at all."
In the heart of the midwest, Missouri is not exactly known for its mountains -- though that might fool some racers into a false sense of flatness. "We do have a KOM category because there are some elevation gains, some will catch the riders by surprise," said Aronhalt. "We know it is September and the end of the season. While the terrain is not as mountainous as Georgia, it is still rolling. And we put a lot of emphasis on the TT course to make it decisive, so there will be a lot of competition still."
Aronhalt said that the timing of the event is designed to benefit the USPRO road and time trial championships, and vice-versa -- particularly since the race runs up against the Vuelta a España, Tour of Poland and Tour of Britain.
The race itself begins with a flat out-and-back, lollipop-shaped road race in Kansas City that dips across the river into the state of Kansas for a loop before returning into the city for three finish circuits. The second stage, from Clinton to Springfield, features a steady uphill false flat with plenty of rolling hills to frustrate the sprinters. As promised, the time trial in Branson features some of the toughest climbing in the whole race, likely the decision maker of the entire race.
Stage four, from Lebanon to Columbia, features a bit more climbing and a fun finish in the university town and with school in session, additional crowds are expected. But there will be no time for fraternity parties as stage five should be a fast run to St. Louis, followed by stage six, a flat downtown circuit that should result in another fast field sprint.
The circuit race feature will be similar to the finish stages of both California and Georgia this year. "We have a great circuit race right in down," said Aronhalt. "It is pretty congested so it is easier to keep it in the confines. There is also a home Cardinals versus Cubs [baseball] game and a home Rams [American football] game, so there should be big crowds. The city is really excited."
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