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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Stage 5: How about some wine?

Part of the rationale for the state of Missouri to pour $1 million into the Tour of Missouri is to boost tourism in the state, so it makes sense that Saturday's Stage 5, which starts in Jefferson City and ends in St. Charles, goes through the heart of Missouri's wine country. I'm posting this now so you have a few hours to make your last-minute plans.

While there's pretty scenery in the early part of the stage, the real action for the racers and tourists begins in Hermann.

After crossing the old, rickety Highway 19 bridge into Hermann -- a bridge that isn't too safe for cyclists any other day of the year because of its narrow lanes -- the riders will sprint for points past the Stone Hill Winery, one of the best-known Missouri wineries. Missouri is known for its dry, red Norton wines, its German-style white wines and its Port wines, and Stone Hill is no exception.

It's not surprising that the Hermann wineries have a wide range of events tied to the Tour of Missouri. On Friday night, the 2-mile King of the Mountain Time Trial climbs some of the town's biggest hills. On Saturday, the Hermann Wine Trail puts on the Seven Hills of Hermann Bike Ride, which routes people on part of the Tour of Missouri before turning on Highway H and taking on the Seven Hills of Hermann. The climb out of Hermann is particularly nasty, and I'm a bit surprised the Tour of Missouri didn't use Highway H as part of its route. There also will be a kids' bike race in Hermann from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday.

The Tour of Missouri is expected to pass through Hermann after 1 p.m. After that, they'll turn east on Highway 100, where they will pass several more wineries. The first of the day's King of the Mountain points will be awarded about two miles east of Hermann on Highway 100. Here's the elevation for that first KOM stop:

The route crosses the Route 47 bridge at Washington, and the cyclists will turn east on Highway 94 and pass the Blumenhof Winery. They'll turn right on Emke Road, then turn left on Augusta Bottom Road. The second set of KOM points will be awarded near the Mount Pleasant Winery in Augusta. Below is the profile for the second KOM:

Not surprisingly, there are events planned in Augusta as well. The Augusta Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a timed 23-mile VIP ride, which includes 11 miles of the the Tour of Missouri. The $100 entry fee includes ride, gourmet lunch at Mount Pleasant and parking pass. The winery also is offering a range of packages that range from reserved parking to reserved viewing space in a VIP area.

The route traverses through Augusta back to Highway 94. After about a mile on that highway, the route turns onto Schluersburg Road. That's when the racers will face their stiffest challenge of the day, the climb up the Schluersburg Road hill for the third and final KOM points on the day. Here's what the riders will be facing on that 0.9-mile climb with about 350 feet of vertical gain:

If you want to see a bit of suffering, Schluersburg Road is your place.

The route ends in St. Charles, Missouri's first state capital, near the city's historic district. There are plenty of shops in the historic district, not to mention the Ameristar Casino to the south of the finish.

Trailnet's Bicycle Fun Club will have a Tour of Missouri Fun Ride that starts at the casino between 9 and 10 a.m. Riders will travel the Katy Trail to a vantage point where they want to see the race. They can go as far as Augusta, which is a 64-mile round trip from St. Charles.

The state of Missouri is hoping you'll come visit -- and spend some money!

(Coming Friday: A preview of the Stage 6 route in St. Louis.)

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