Tour of Missouri announces first teams

The Tour of Missouri announced the first four teams for its third edition, scheduled September 7-13, 2009. United States-based teams Garmin-Slipstream and Columbia-Highroad, Italy's Liquigas and the Switzerland-based Cervélo TestTeam will be participating.

Chris Aronhalt of event organiser Medalist Sports already looks forward to the event. "We have had record interest in the event, which has precipitated the early announcement of the first teams committed to participate. The stature of the Tour of Missouri continues to grow ... and we anticipate the announcement of more teams in the next couple weeks."

The overall course will take on a very different slant in 2009. For the first time, the race will route east to west, starting in St. Louis and finishing in Kansas City. The past two years, the race routed west to east starting in Kansas City to finish in St. Louis.

Garmin-Slipstream is expected to field a top team that will include 2008 Tour of Missouri winner Christian Vande Velde. In the off-season, the team also signed Canadian Svein Tuft, who finished third overall in last year's race.

"We're coming back to Missouri to win again," said Garmin-Slipstream's general manager Jonathan Vaughters. "It's a major objective for us, as it's our chance to show Garmin and its employees what we're all about in their backyard."

Vande Velde has good memories, not only because of his win. "The race was well publicised, well organised and had great spectators. Truly world class. It was great to finish my season with a major stage race in the Midwest and not far from my home [in the Chicago area]. I look forward to coming back to defend my title with my Garmin teammates."

Columbia-Highroad will put up fight

Columbia-Highroad features 2007 Tour of Missouri champion George Hincapie and Britain's Mark Cavendish, who won three stages of the 2008 race and the points classification.

Columbia-Highroad's General Manager Bob Stapleton promised to put up a fight against Garmin. "We are looking forward to sending a top team to Missouri again this year. We had a great time last year with good success [four stage wins and second place overall]. We look to come back and do the same again this year. The race is very well organised and the people of Missouri were extremely welcoming and enthusiastic about the racing."

Liquigas, an entrant into last year's race, is one of Italy's top teams and last year was led by Czech Republic's Roman Kreuziger, who won the Best Young Rider jersey.

The newly established Cervélo TestTeam features 2008 Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre, top Norwegian sprinter Thor Hushovd, who already has won a stage of the Amgen Tour of California and the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad event this year. Canadian Dominique Rollin is also expected to ride. He finished third overall in the 2007 Tour of Missouri and won the King of the Mountains jersey last year.

The complete race rosters will not be announced until next August but team directors are already talking about sending many of their top stars, said Aronhalt.

The race will be contested over seven days and seven stages. There will be two circuit races (St. Louis, Kansas City), one individual time trial (Sedalia), and four point to point road races (Ste. Genevieve to Cape Girardeau; Farmington to Rolla; St. James to Jefferson City; Chillicothe to St. Joseph).

The overall mileage for the course is expected to be more than 600 miles.

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