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Friday, March 06, 2009

Tour of Missouri announces 4 teams

Garmin-Slipstream, led by defending champion and Illinois native Christian Vande Velde, was the first cycling team committed to this year's Tour of Missouri, and three other teams have joined the fray, race organizers announced Thursday.

Another American team, Columbia-High Road, the Italian team Liquigas, as well as the Swiss-based Cervelo Test Team will be in this year's event, which begins Sept. 7 in St. Louis and ends Sept. 13 in Kansas City.

"We have had record interest in the event, which has precipitated the early announcement of the first teams committed to participate," Chris Aronhalt, the managing partner of event organizer Medalist Sports, said in a press release. "The stature of the Tour of Missouri continues to grow, and the participation of top teams like Columbia-High Road, Garmin-Slipstream, Liquigas, and Cervelo -- all teams expected to race in the Tour de France this year -- justifies this event’s world-class reputation. We anticipate the announcement of more teams in the next couple weeks."

In addition to Vande Velde, Garmin-Slipstream also will feature Canadian Svein Tuft, who finished third overall in last year’s race.

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.

Last year, Columbia-High Road was the top team in the Tour of Missouri on the strength of Mark Cavendish's three stage wins and Michael Barry's one win. George Hincapie, who won the inagural Tour of Missouri in 2007 while riding for Discovery Channel, also rides for Columbia-High Road.

The Cervelo Test Team will be a first-time entrant into the Tour of Missouri. Cervelo’s team 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 Het Volk event this year, and Dominque Rollin, who finished third overall in the 2007 Tour of Missouri and won the Michelob Ultra King of the Mountain jersey last year.

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

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