JEFFERSON CITY — Argentina's Juan Jose Haedo was the first to cross the finish line in the fourth stage of the Tour of Missouri on Thursday, but another cyclist drew more attention long before the stage was over.
Former race leader Mark Cavendish didn't even start.
According to the event's Web site, broadcast coverage of the Tour of Missouri, a 612-mile, seven-day world-class professional cycling race, will air nationally with a 30-minute recap show on Versus at midnight CDT every night of the competition. Fox Sports Midwest has scheduled regional broadcast coverage of the race from 11:30 to midnight on Sept. 10 and 11 and from 11 to 11:30 p.m. on Sept. 12, though other events might change show times. Coverage of the race can also be found on the Internet at universalsports.com and tourofmissouri.com, as well as kmov.com in St. Louis and kmbc.com in Kansas City.
Just hours before the fourth stage began, Team Columbia-HTC announced Cavendish's withdrawal from the competition. Team owner Bob Stapleton said an infection had spread and Cavendish had fluid in his lungs.
"Mark has been fighting an infection since traveling to the USA," Stapleton said in a written statement. "He is on antibiotics and will rest here in Missouri for a few days prior to returning to Europe."
Stapleton could not be reached for further comment on Cavendish's condition. It is unclear whether Cavendish, a 10-time stage winner in the Tour de France, will be able to return to racing this season.
Cavendish won the first two stages of the Tour of Missouri but had ceded the yellow jersey to Thor Hushovd, of Cervelo Test, after the third leg of the race, remaining a close second entering Thursday's stage.
Cavendish's withdrawal from the race left the field more open in the fourth stage. In an 109-mile road race from St. James to Jefferson City, a pileup in the closing miles felled several riders and slowed others. Hushovd and Haedo escaped to complete the grueling climb to the finish line adjacent to the Statehouse. Haedo, of Saxo Bank, edged Hushovd with a powerful uphill kick to win the stage. Italy's Dario Cataldo, of Quick Step, finished third.
It was the first time Haedo, who is known more for his sprinting than his endurance, had worn the leader's jersey.
"I'm not going to be the one with it tomorrow," Haedo said, spurring laughter from onlookers. "But even if I don't get the win tomorrow, I'll start with the yellow jersey for the first time."
Cyclist Moises Aldape, who was awarded the King of the Mountain jersey for the fourth time following Thursday's stage, said the absence of Cavendish had a major effect on the stage.
"It was different than the last few days," Aldape said. "Without Cavendish, it is a different race. It's more open for more guys."
Sean Weide, communications director for Aldape's team, Team Type 1, agreed the strategy of the race was altered with Cavendish no longer competing.
"The Columbia-HTC team no longer had any reason to control the race," Weide said. "They've controlled the race every day to set Cavendish up with a win and because he wasn't in the race ... it wasn't in their best interest to control it."
Cavendish was the second top contender to drop out of the race. On Monday, defending champion Christian Vande Velde suffered a wrist injury in a pileup of more than a dozen riders in St. Louis. He was the last of 118 to finish the opening stage, a 75-mile circuit race in St. Louis, and dropped out before Tuesday's second stage.
The Tour of Missouri will continue Friday with a 19-mile time trial at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia. Haedo will have the yellow jersey to begin the stage.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report