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Tour of Missouri not stopping by Columbia this year

Tuesday, January 29, 2008 | 7:52 p.m. CST; updated 8:51 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

CORRECTION: Story has been updated to correct the day of a planned news conference. The route of the race was scheduled to be announced Wednesday.

COLUMBIA — The 2008 Tour of Missouri won’t be coming through Columbia this fall.

The bicycle tour’s schedule conflicts with two significant events in town: the MU School of Journalism’s centennial celebration and an MU home football game.

Lorah Steiner, executive director of Columbia’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, said hosting the Tour of Missouri and the previously scheduled events would put law enforcement in a difficult situation.

“It’s a weekend when law enforcement would really be stretched,” Steiner said. “If it were any other weekend but that weekend, I think it would have been much easier ... but it’s like having a citywide convention on top of a football game that requires police and a lot of other services, then bring in the Tour of Missouri.”

The rising cost of lodging because of the two events, and concern about the availability of rooms was also a factor, Steiner said.

The city was willing to host the race on a weekday, but according to Steiner, race officials wanted a 2008 schedule that was in line with last year’s.

Jerry Dowell, spokesman for Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, said officials were unable to accommodate Columbia’s requests.

“They kind of excluded themselves from the process on the timetable that we could get through Columbia,” Dowell said. “It was not that we didn’t want to come back to Columbia.”

Dowell said Columbia officials didn’t want to host the race on a Friday or Saturday, Sept. 12 or 13. The centennial celebration will take place Sept. 10-12. Missouri hosts Nevada in football on Sept. 13.

Last year the inaugural Tour of Missouri drew nearly 400,000 fans around the state, according to a Tour of Missouri news release.

Sarah Ashman, the general manager of Walt’s Bicycle Fitness and Wilderness Co., said she took off work to attend some of the stages.

“I think it gets people really enthused to ride their bikes,” Ashman said. “It gets people thinking of being more active in general.”

“Columbia’s pretty unique to Missouri in that there are really a lot of cyclists in Columbia,” Ashman said. “I think there are a lot of people who are disappointed.”

Jefferson City, as it did last year, will host the tour this fall.

“We’ll probably try to get started after the press conference,” said Sarah Stroesser of the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau. “I think people caught a glimpse of a really exciting event last year and that they’re going to want to come back and see this year.”

Gov. Matt Blunt and Kinder were scheduled to announce the complete Tour of Missouri race schedule and economic numbers relating to the 2007 race at a news conference on Wednesday.

Columbia would remain interested in the race in future years, Steiner said.

“We know that the community wants to see this come back,” she said. “We think it’s great for Columbia, great for the state. We just want it to be here during a time we can do it well.”


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