Columbia applies to host leg of Tour of Missouri bike race

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 | 5:42 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Cycling lovers, cross your fingers.

Columbia residents will learn later this month if the city has been selected to host one of seven stages of the 2009 Tour of Missouri bike race.

The city hosted a stage finish during the 2007 inaugural race, but didn't apply in 2008 due to resource conflicts with other tourism-related community events, an MU football game and the MU School of Journalism's centennial celebration. 

The Columbia Convention and Visitor's Bureau's application proposed two scenarios for the city in 2009: hosting a weekday start based on current resources or hosting a weekday finish contingent upon securing support from local sponsors.

In previous races, cities spent on average $15,000 to $30,000 to host the start of a stage, while stage finishes averaged $50,000 to $75,000, said Jerry Dowell, executive director of Tour of Missouri.

Lorah Steiner, director of the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the 2007 stage stop in Columbia cost in the range of $70,000 to $80,000.

The Tour of Missouri cycling stage race started in September 2007. The 2009 race has been elevated to the highest status by the Union Cycliste International, the governing body for world cycling, making it now one of only two U.S. races feeding into the world championship tours, including the Tour de France. The other U.S. race is the Amgen Tour of California held in February.

The Tour of Missouri race, which will begin on Labor Day and conclude six days later, now confers more status to participating racing teams.

"There will be more interest from European teams and more people will want to watch," Dowell said. "Missouri is now internationally competitive in terms of bike racing." He noted that race webcasts were viewed from 142 countries in 2008, an increase from 73 countries in 2007.

Eighteen Missouri cities applied for a start or finish, Dowell said. Thirteen of the 18 cities that applied as 2009 host cities participated in the 2007 or 2008 races. Cape Girardeau, Warrenton, Ste. Genevieve, Farmington and Chillicothe are first-time applicants this year.

Applicants must prove they have adequate resources to provide administrative, safety, lodging and other hospitality services to a race entourage of approximately 400 racing team members, officials and operations crews.

Local resources are used to set up and take down route markers and barricades, pay on-site emergency medical crews and police, promote the event, and pay for meals and lodging for race participants. Multiple mailings announcing race information are sent to addresses along the route to ensure the safety and cooperation of affected property owners, Steiner said.

In addition to adequate funding, cities must organize a planning committee to coordinate the event. Jody Russell of the Convention and Visitor's Bureau is slated as chairwoman if Columbia is selected as a host city; Dennie Pendergrass, retired from the city of Columbia Public Works Department, would be technology coordinator; and Tim Moriarty of the Columbia Police Department would coordinate volunteers.

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