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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Tour of Missouri gets an upgrade

The Tour of Missouri recently got a big boost in its international stature when the Union Cycliste Internationale upgraded the status of the 2009 event to 2HC.

The two biggest American races, the Amgen Tour of California and the Tour of Georgia, also are rated 2.HC, the highest rating available to North American races. The rating means the race will award premium international competition points to winners, which should attract more attention from fans, the international media and top international competitors.

Speculation is rampant that Lance Armstrong could race in Missouri next year, but the Kansas City Star reported Friday that's all it is.

In an interview with the Star, Medalist Sports managing partner Chris Aronhalt said he hoped Armstrong would add Missouri to his 2009 schedule, but he said he wasn’t counting on it. Medalist Sports puts on all three of the major U.S. stage races.

“It would be icing on the cake,” he said. “But we want to make sure it isn’t built on one rider.”

The higher rating doesn't necessarily ensure the race's future. Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, both Republicans, jump-started the event in 2007 with state funding that Aronhalt said this year amounted to around $1.7 million of the event’s $3.3 million total budget, the Star reported.

Medalist Sports’ three-year contract with the state runs out after next year’s race. Blunt is not seeking re-election, and Kinder is running against Democrat Sam Page, who is opposed to state funding of the Tour of Missouri.

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