Second Tour of Missouri adds extra day, hills

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

ST. LOUIS -- The second Tour of Missouri bicycle race adds an extra day of competition and more hills.

The extra mileage is fine with Ivan Dominguez, a sprinter nicknamed the "Cuban Missile" who won the first and last stages of the inaugural event. Challenging terrain, he joked, he can do without.

"Bad for me," Dominguez said at a news conference Monday to reveal the course for the seven-day race set Sept. 8 to 14 that begins in St. Joseph and concludes in St. Louis. "It's going to be a little challenging for me, although the hills are not too long."

Dominguez rides for Toyota-United, the country's top domestic team. The likelihood of Olympic medalists from the Beijing Games in August participating adds to the event profile with a field of 120 world class cyclists from 15 teams and more than 25 countries participating, including defending champion George Hincapie.

Stage 1 is a 90-mile road race that starts near the Pony Express monument in St. Joseph and ends in Kansas City, host of the opening stage last year. The approximate 600-mile course winds its way through the state and ends with a 70-mile circuit race in St. Louis.

Stage 2 is a road race from Clinton to Springfield, Stage 3 is an 18-mile individual time trial in Branson, Stage 4 is a 95-mile road race from Lebanon to Rolla, Stage 5 is a 96-mile road race that begins in St. James and ends near the state capitol in Jefferson City and Stage 6 is a road race from Hermann to St. Charles. Organizers believe Stages 5 and 6 will be the most challenging from a terrain standpoint.

"We think it's sort of like the all-American race," said Steve Brunner, marketing director of the event.

Brunner said nearly 30 cities expressed interest in hosting stages this year, with St. Joseph, St. James and Rolla serving as new host cities. That's a big step up from the first year, when organizers had to sell the unknown and the tourism benefit.

"We weren't sure what it was or who would show up," St. Charles mayor Katie York said. "We just have to make sure we keep the rivers down and the roads open."

An estimated 50,000 people watched the final stage near downtown St. Louis last September despite the Rams, Cardinals and Blues all playing that day, with this year's closing circuit featuring Forest Park. Organizers estimate the inaugural event totaled about 370,000 spectators.

"So many people," Dominguez said. "It looks like they love cycling here, so that's great."

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