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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Tour of Missouri: Stage 1-2 notebook

A few notes about the Tour of Missouri thus far:

How about the crowds? Some media accounts in the St. Louis reported an estimate of 75,000 people who line the streets of the 7.5-mile circuit for Stage 1 on Monday. It's hard to say how accurate that estimate was, but there sure were a lot of people downtown.

(By the way, the photo of the start of the race near the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis was taken by longtime friend Doug Kaufman.)

The Southeast Missourian reported a crowd of 5,000 for the Stage 2 finish in Cape Girardeau. Organizers were hoping for 30,000 people for the Stage 2 finish, but Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a native of Cape Girardeau, and Mayor Jay Knudtson said they were proud of the community's support of the event.

Precarious future: Announcers during Stage 1 frequently noted that many of the world's greatest cyclists were at the Tour of Missouri rather than the Vuelta a Espana. Despite the high caliber of racing, the future of the racing still is hanging in the balance.

In its preview of the race, the Kansas City Star reminded its readers that this is the final year of a three-year contract between the state of Missouri and Medalist Sports, the promoters of the event. Gov. Jay Nixon's office had threatened to cut off funding for this year's event, but Kinder and cycling fans were successful in persuading Nixon's office to preserve $1.5 million allocated for the event.

Although Missouri is not in bad financial shape as other states, including neighboring Illinois, the state will be looking to cut expenditures in the next year. Kinder, a Republican, says Nixon, a Democrat, has shown hostility toward the event, a charge that Nixon denies.

Cavendish is hot: Mark Cavendish's victories in Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the Tour of Missouri were his 22nd and 23rd wins this year. Although he's only 24, the Stage 1 victory was the 50th of his career, according to the BBC. Cavendish has won at least one stage in each stage race he has competed in since March 2008, VeloNews says.

Live coverage of the Tour: I don't know about you, but I think the caliber of the online broadcasts of the Tour of Missouri has taken a quantum leap this year. Clearly, having Paul Sherwen and Frankie Andreu behind the microphones has added a high level of professionalism to the broadcast, but I think the video coverage is vastly improved from the past two years.

As a Midwest native, I've liked how Sherwen and Andreu have added tidbits about the history and attractions of St. Louis and southeastern Missouri, thus educating people throughout the country and the world about the diversity Missouri has to offer.

Stage 3 will be a challenge for crews covering the race because much of the stage is in a relatively remote part of Missouri. In past years when the Tour hit rural areas of Missouri, there has been breakups in the video or in tour tracker services.

Almost forgot the women: Last year, Brooke Miller came to Missouri for the one-day Tour of Missouri Criterium in Kansas City and won. She liked racing in Missouri so much that she came back this year for the Tour of Missouri Women's Series, which was run Thursday through Monday as part of St. Louis' Gateway Cup Series.

It was a profitable trip for the 33-year-old Santa Cruz, Calif., resident. Miller won all four races during the Tour de LaFayette, the St. Louis Hills race, the Giro Della Montagna and the Tour of Missouri Pro/Am.

"It's great that the Tour of Missouri is offering women a chance to show what we can do," Miller told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

No armadillos in his way: Two years ago, St. Louis-area native Dan Schmatz was hoping to gain some glory in the inaugural Tour of Missouri. Instead, he gained infamy.

Schmatz struck an armadillo in the road between Clinton and Springfield that year and suffered a broken collarbone that knocked him out of of the race.

Over the weekend, Schmatz had a successful run in the Gateway Cup in the Men's Pro/1/2 races. Schmatz won the Tour de Lafayette, St. Louis Hills and Tour of Missouri Pro/Am and finished third in the Giro Della Montagna.

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