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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Tour of Missouri: Stage 1-3 routes

The Tour of Missouri route is dramatically different this year than it has been in the past. The most obvious difference is that it goes east to west, from St. Louis to Kansas City, rather than from west to east, as it had done in 2007 and 2008.

Instead of visiting Springfield and Branson in southwestern Missouri, the route visits southeastern Missouri for the first time during Stages 2 and 3. The route also trades a hilly individual time trial (Branson) for a flatter one (Sedalia).

For the first time, the route also skips Hermann and Augusta, two of Missouri's most famous wine country communities. But don't worry wine lovers, the Stage 2 route goes past the Crown Valley Winery near Ste. Genevieve and ends in Cape Girardeau, which has a sizable group of wineries.

Here's a quick look at the Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3 routes. To see maps, hill profiles and course logs for the route, visit the Tour of Missouri site.

Stage 1 (St. Louis circuit race, Sept. 7): This is a new course for the St. Louis circuit race. In 2007 and 2008, the circuit started and ended on Market Street near Union Station and went toward Forest Park and the Central West End neighborhood.

This year, the start-finish line will be at the Citygarden on Market Street. Citygarden describes itself as "an oasis in the heart of a major American city’s downtown: a vibrant and serene blending of lush plantings and internationally renowned sculpture with delights of water, stone, architecture and design."

Competitors should be able to gain lots of speed as they cruise down Broadway toward the historic Soulard neighborhood. Michelob Ultra is a Silver Sponsor of the Tour of Missouri, so it shouldn't come as a surprise the route passes the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. The brewery will be open for tours on Labor Day.

The course returns to the Soulard neighborhood for a climb up Russell Street. The King of the Mountain banner will be at Russell and 12th streets, near McGurk's Irish Pub, the most famous of St. Louis' Irish bars. Also nearby is the Soulard Art Market, which is presenting the bicycle-themed show "Spoked!" The gallery will be open Monday during Stage 1. With eight bars and restaurants within a block of the Russell Street section of the course, Soulard will be the party central for Stage 1, and Soulard knows how to put on a party: It's the home of the city's annual Mardi Gras celebration!

Before coming back to downtown, the route passes Lafayette Park in the city's up-and-coming Lafayette Square neighborhood.

Stage 2 (Ste. Genevieve to Cape Girardeau, Sept. 8): Stage 2 begins in one of Missouri's most historic communities, Ste. Genevieve. The community was settled during the state's days as a French colony, and several buildings from the 1700s and early 1800s still survive. Pictured at left is the Bolduc House, which was built in the 1820s.

The both Sprint banner and both King of the Mountain banners take place relatively early in this stage. The first KOM banner in on Highway B about 8.2 miles southwest of the intersection of Highway B and Highway 32 near Ste. Genevieve. The Sprint banner is about 6 miles later on Highway WW at the Crown Valley Winery. The second KOM banner comes about 5.4 miles from the winery on Highway WW. The other sprint banner is in the community of Perryville.

The rest of the route to Cape Girardeau is filled with the "undulating rolling hills" the Tour of Missouri has become famous for. The Velo Girardeau bicycle club, which is planning a ride Sunday on the Stage 2 course, describes the course as "one of the more strenuous 112 mile rides you will encounter." Cape Girardeau is the home of Southeast Missouri State University. It also happens to be the home of Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, the biggest supporter of the Tour of Missouri in state government.

Stage 3 (Farmington to Rolla, Sept. 9): This stage should go a long way in determining who will win the general classification in this year's. With more than 6,000 feet of climbing, Tour of Missouri organizers say this may the toughest stage course ever in the three-year history of the event. If the Stage 2 course is strenuous for mere mortals like me, Stage 3 should be beyond category!

Stage 3 enters the Ozarks near Farmington. Specifically, the cyclists will be riding though the St. Francois Mountains region. The region is home to many of Missouri's best state parks, including Elephant Rocks and Johnson Shut-In.

Stage 3 Sprint banners will be in Pilot Knob, about 15 miles into the stage, and Viburnum, at about 54.7 miles.

But the bigger attraction will be the three KOM banners. The first comes shortly after the town of Banner on Highway 32. Competitors will climb from about 940 feet to about 1300 feet in that KOM climb.

Then there's two back-to-back KOM banners between Viburnum and Cherryville. The first is about 8.5 miles north of Viburnum, a town of about 800 people, and the second banner comes 3.6 miles later. Both hills are steep.

Although that's the last of the KOM banners, there's plenty of hills between Cherryville and Rolla, the home of the Missouri University of Science and Technology (formerly the University of Missouri-Rolla). Rolla is a repeat finish city for the Tour, and the city has events planned to coincide with the race.

Enjoy your time following the Tour of Missouri and come back frequently for updates during the Tour!

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