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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Vande Velde wins Tour of Missouri; Chicchi wins Stage 7

Congratulations to Lemont, Ill., native Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Chipotle), who won the 2008 Tour of Missouri today by finishing safely in the pack of the 53,2-mile Stage 7.

Accompanying Vande Velde on the podium were Australian Michael Rogers (Columbia) who finished second in the general classification 18 seconds behind the winner. Canadian Svein Tuft (Symmetrics) rounded out the podium.

“It’s been a really great race from day one,” Vande Velde said of the Tour of Missouri Web site. “I didn’t expect to win the time trial, but from then on, it was game on with everyone throwing everything at us, trying to take away the 21-second gap I had from the time trial. In the end, I was happy that everyone gave us such a fight because the win means that much more to us.”

Vande Velde, who finished fifth in this year's Tour de France, won Tuesday's Stage 3 time trial in Branson and never lost the lead again.

Fransesco Chicchi (liquigas) of Italy won Stage 7 in about 1 hour, 52 minutes, denying Mark Cavendish (Columbia) of Great Britain of a fourth stage win.

On the strength of his three stage victories, Cavendish won the points jersey and his Columbia squad won the team competition. BMC's Jeff Louder won the most aggressive rider competition and Toyota-United's Dominque Rollin won the climber's competition, and Liquigas' Roman Kreuzinger was the best young rider.

The remnants of Hurricane Ike had a major impact on the final stage. The circuit had to be cut from 13.5 miles to about 10.5 miles because of flooding inside Forest Park. Tour organizers took out 3.5 miles of the course within the park, which would have taken them past the St. Louis Art Museum, the St. Louis Zoo and the Muny Opera. The remnants brought rain early in the stage and stiff winds throughout the stage.

Tour organizers also canceled a health and wellness expo scheduled for downtown St. Louis, race official Priscilla Visintine told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

From what I saw the the crowds on video -- I couldn't make it to today's stage because of work obligations -- they seemed sparce on much of the course. Of course, the crowd was strong along the start-finish line near City Hall, and there were decent numbers along parts of Euclid Avenue in the city's Central West End.

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