Routes set for state cycling tour

Inaugural event has city planning festivities for racers arrival next month
Thursday, August 2, 2007 | 12:38 a.m. CDT; updated 5:20 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

One hundred twenty professional cyclists will come to the state in six weeks, and routes for the Tour of Missouri are now set.

Wednesday, race organizers announced the official route for stage 4 of the inaugural Tour of Missouri bike race. Stage 4 will have cyclists taking off from Lebanon at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 14, travelling north along state highways and roads and finishing in downtown Columbia.

Once the riders enter Columbia, they will travel on more than 20 city roads, including Rock Quarry Road, Stadium Boulevard, Rollins Street, University Avenue and East Broadway, before crossing the finish line at Eighth and Walnut streets in front of the Boone County Courthouse.

Along the way, racers will cross the Missouri River at Jefferson City.

“Even though stage 5 will begin in Jefferson City, it was the best place for the racers to cross the Missouri River,” Jody Russell, convention services manager for Columbia’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, said. “The racers can only go for so many miles a day. We looked at some other possibilities, maybe Boonville, but it was just too long. This was the best place. Anywhere else would have made too long of a day for the racers.”

After stage 4 is complete, the cyclists stay overnight in Columbia. In the morning, they will be transported to Jefferson City for stage 5 of the race.

St. Louis native Dan Schmatz, of the BMC Pro Cycling Team and one of three Missouri racers, expects stage 4 to challenge the racers.

“It’s going to be quite difficult,” Schmatz said. “It’s the longest stage in the whole race and probably the one with the most hills, so it’ll be tough. But, with the time trials (in Branson) the day before, it should be a good day.”

Schmatz also competed in the Tour de Georgia, a race that inspired Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder to bring a race to Missouri.

Other Missouri racers include Brad Huff of Springfield, competing with Team Slipstream, and Brian Dzeiwa of Farmington, competing with Team Jelly Belly.

While the Missouri racers will be rooting for each other, Schmatz said they still have a job to do.

“It’ll be fun for everyone,” he said, “but it’s that point in the season where you really won’t think about the other racers. If I don’t win, I’d still love to see a Missouri guy on top.”

Entertainment, viewing areas and family activities will be set up in downtown Columbia.

Bill Marshall, assistant director for the statewide race, said the event will have a “block party” feel.

“We’ll have vendors set up and people just having a good time,” he said. “And, you’ll be able to see the racers coming into the finish. Nothing’s more exciting than seeing 120 racers, speeding 40 miles-an-hour coming to the end of a race. The finish is big time excitement.”

A live feed of the race will be available on two large screens downtown, two hours before racers are expected to arrive at the finish line.

Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman said the event is great for the city.

“This adds one more wonderful event to Columbia,” Hindman said. “And, it’s one we haven’t seen before. Columbia is a sport-oriented city, with lots of health related activities, so it’s just perfect.”

A broadcast of the race will be available on Versus Network the following Saturday.

The 600-mile, point-to-point race will begin Sept. 11 in Kansas City and finish Sept. 16 in St. Louis. Nine professional teams have signed on so far, including Team Discovery Channel, Team Slipstream, Team Toyota-United, Team Health-Net, Team Navigators, Team Colavita Oil/Sutter Homes and the USA National Team.

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