Tour of Missouri: Rest in Peace

Last week cycling lost yet another home to the peloton. The Tour of Missouri which had quickly risen in the continental ranks as second only to the Tour of California, was found beaten to death this past week, pummeled by some dirty politics and back room dealings. Word on the street unfortunately has it that there are either links to the mafia or a sheep-lovers cult and the murder rises to that of a crime of the highest order. Tour organizers found the lifeless body of the Tour of Missouri outside the steps of the hill on the capitol steps, just west of the Governor’s mansion and immediately put her on life support. Diligent efforts were made to save her life, but after courageous efforts, she passed this past week on May 27.

After a seven-month negotiation with State Tourism, which included a bi-partisan state senate and house approval of $1 million in support for the Tour of Missouri sponsorship, the United States’ second biggest professional cycling event and one of the top stage races outside of Europe, will be officially cancelled should earmarked funds not be released by Tourism and the Governor, according to the board of directors of Tour of Missouri, Inc.

“This may be a win for the Missouri Tourism Commission and the Governor, but a huge loss for the state of Missouri and its citizens,” said Mike Weiss, chairman of the Tour of Missouri, Inc. “It has been an insanely complicated battle for something so beneficial, and it’s left all of us absolutely baffled.

—Tour of Missouri press release May 27, 2010

So, OK, I’m indeed bitter, pissed and sarcastic here. It seems like yet another continental racing effort that just seems to come and go. The sad reality is I can go on with a list of them that I have came to love, like loved ones in my family. The Tour DuPont, Coors Classic, Red Zinger, Tour of Georgia, and now the Tour of Missouri. What does it take to develop a race w/tradition and a heritage that is set in stone?

Can we blame the opposition? As cyclists, we sometimes are not even unified ourselves in something we love. Some work and negotiate to make these races happen. Sometimes it may mean negotiating and developing what appears to be odd relationships. However, working with others to gain support that is more in our interest than theirs is to our benefit, i.e. Amgen and the Tour of California. Despite these benefits however, there are those who despise the corporate support of our racing ventures and cannot understand why we have such odd relationships. Others are indifferent and do nothing in support nor otherwise.

The sad reality is that it takes money and a lot of it in order to support races and events of this magnitude. Private sponsorships, mutual relationships and negotiations have got to be delicately balanced in order for us to have and enjoy something so central to us, that of big cycling events and races.

So our opposition uses this against us. They exploit this weakness and use it as an advantage. They use those who say nothing and point to them as examples that ‘most don’t really care’. The vocal opponents would rather see money used elsewhere.

The key is this: I hope for our sakes that we can unify our divergent ideas, respect our differences and recognize the single thing we have in common. The bike. Sure, we can have interesting discussions like we have here at RKP, we can even heat it up at times, we can correct one another, challenge one another, but when it comes to the outside circles that we congregate ourselves we should represent cycling well and always help it become elevated to the ranks it deserves.

As far as the Tour of Missouri goes, rest in peace my friend, it was a great ride wasn’t it?

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. Touriste-Routier

    Events need to be financially viable in order to survive, just like any business. Relying primarily on government spending to support a private enterprise is not really a viable model, for one that isn’t directly serving a public need, particularly in a time of budget crisis.

    There is an underlying current amongst cyclists in the US that we need our own Grand Tour, and that we need to model our racing scene on the European one. There are many differences between North America and Europe. Even without Missouri (or Georgia) we have a fairly healthy stage race scene, with California, Utah, Mt Hood, Gila, etc. What we are lacking, that Europe has, is a large number of notable one day road races. Europe has a calendar full of classics, semi-classics, and other 1-day high level races; we have only a few.

    As full disclaimer, I am on the management team of the Univest Grand Prix and have served as management or senior staff on other US UCI races, so I have a clear bias. But the DS of the Johan Bruyneel Cycling Academy told me, that, “if there were 25 races like the Univest in the US, there would be no reason for North American Cyclists to go to Europe”; this is coming from a guy who makes his living hosting US cyclists in Belgium.

    We also need to create a calendar system that makes sense, so that major events are not scheduled on top of each other, and so that we can minimize travel between races, which represents a major budget line for US Continental Teams. While it is easy to crisscross the UK or Belgium on a weekly basis, doing so in the US just doesn’t work.

    So while it is sad to lose any event, perhaps we need to focus efforts on creating viable races. Some will need to be 1 day, others may be multi-day series of 1-day races, some may be stage races, but we need to think outside the European Box, and find what works for American audiences (note that the US Crit Circuit is fairly strong). Regardless, cycling is a very hard sell (ask the Pro Tour Teams searching for sponsors), but it isn’t impossible.

    No offense intended, as it was a nice race, but ToMO just wasn’t viable on multiple levels.

  2. MattyVT

    It’s sad to see that great events like the Tour of Missouri have a hard time taking root in American soil. Putting on an event like that is expensive and measuring financial payback is indirect at best. With the exception of Philly, Univest and handful of other events there are very few large scale, long-standing races that have been around long enough for cyclists and non-cycling locals to rally around and support. We don’t have races that have run for a hundred years over the same course and with few exceptions, it’s unlikely that we will.

  3. Champs

    Professional road racing in the US may be shaky, but amateur events are growing. Maybe they’re not the most spectator-friendly or highly competitive, but gran fondos and gravel rides have taken off, Lance has made races like the Leadville 100 noteworthy, and all of them much more interesting than four corner office park crits.

    Speaking of Four Corners, I find it amazing that nobody in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, or Arizona has worked out how to host what would have to be the most epic tour ever: forests, desert, prairie, and high mountains that put the Alps to shame. Nobody in Boulder has made this happen? Really?

  4. steeleman

    Champs: “high mountains that put the Alps to shame”. C’mon, there’s some good mountains in those states, but let’s be serious.

  5. Michael Theesfeld

    Guys like this certainly don’t help. Unfortunately we live in a place where the majority just doesn’t seem to get it. And as long as it stays that way, we will continue to see races like Missouri suffer an untimely and unfortunate demise. When the majority of our “esteemed” leaders in DC view each cyclist as one less contributor to the transportation fund, I’m often left to wonder how long it will be before they regulate the roads to make it even more difficult for all of us

  6. Author

    @Touriste-Routier: Your spot on that we would do best on our own, cyclists, to just forge ahead and make it happen. However, that being said, there will always be a place to work with Public interest since they literally own the roads, patrolman and right of way. You have a great deal going with your experience and I hope it continues to grow.

    @mattyVT and champs: good points also
    my question is I wonder why…WHY cannot Colorado make one sink. I mean I have been there and watched Scot Moninger while on team Mercury win the last Red Zinger in 2001 if memory is correct, as he spun down the pass into Breckenridge on a very cool July afternoon. Why do we lose these monuments to the US scene??

    @ Micheal: thanks for the info. Your link up to mr. smart-connecticut whatsoever demonstrates that there are some who do not like us at all. Probably because somewhere in his childhood Robot beat him to the corner, day after day after day. It is sad we have the irreverant and ignorant individuals writing this kind of garbage. Cycling is not for everyone without a doubt, and the way most of ‘us’ ride which is usually in deep oxygen indebtedness, many of our best of friends don’t even like us but for all the others if you don’t like us….well, just leave us be. However, that said, if I were a journalist, and I am not, I would be ashamed to be so ill-informed. And your absolutely right, with opposition like that, we need to be on the same page ourselves.

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  8. bwebel

    The altitudes in CO are a lot higher than in Europe, but the roads are typically not as steep. Did you see some of the stuff they climbed in this past Giro?

  9. elSid

    I wouldn’t give much credit to American Flyers. For example, they use footage of echo lake @10,000 ft) and call it 14,000 ft, and exaggerates the effect of altitude. There are only a handful of short paved roads in Colorado that compare to the steep stuff in Europe.

    That isn’t to say there couldn’t or shouldn’t be a big stage race in Colorado (AZ, UT, NM, too). There are some stupid-steep dirt roads that COULD be groomed for uphill TT races like Plan de Corones, but probably won’t because the jeep/atv community would howl, and the general population doesn’t give a shit about cycling. Blackhawk, the community connecting Central City to the beautiful Peak-to-Peak highway, just banned bicycles, and Deer Creek Canyon is next. Both are among the best locations for a major bike race in Colorado, and examples of just how little patience non-cyclists have for the sport.

    Despite the growth of amateur cycling on the Front Range, the prospect of closing major roads for a TdMO/TdCA/TdG-race even for a day is extremely unpopular. Remember, Colorado REJECTED the 1976 Winter Olympics.


  10. Author

    good point elSid:
    sometimes we look from the outside and think logically ‘what a great place for a bike race’ and the locals say ‘we don’t want not stinkin outsiders here’…for what ever reason.

    I have family in CO and read up on local headlines and the opinions vary a great deal on it.

    I was thinking however, a start in Colorado springs or denver, then a Mt Evans uphill TT would be great, the next day Loveland pass to Breck, to Vail. Then scream through the San Juan range. End in durango or telluride.

    I hope Medalist sport will take on another and just try to keep it in their own control, limit the amount of dependence they have on public agencies, yet working with the patrol, local townships, etc. Arkansas has some great places, Texas, even Tennessee/Kentucky. That leaves something in the Midwest. Then develop something further in the East, so each region has a big week long event. But that is pie in the sky

  11. Ron

    RIP for sure. This is not good news at all. I’m guessing the economic downturn didn’t help? Those jerks on Wall Street! When does the new one come out? I need to get angry at Gecko again.

  12. elSid

    That would be fantastic. There terrain would be perfect, and would make for exciting racing.
    Since Armstrong started spending time training in Aspen in 2008, he and the CO governor have periodically dropped hints that announcement of a stage race was imminent, but nothing has happened. I suspect when the prospect of road closure and detours are presented to rural town mayors and representatives, they balk knowing their constituency will not support it. Even charity rides benefitting healthcare research have to be detoured or cancelled because residents on/near the most scenic mountain roads don’t want to be inconvenienced.
    I hate to sound so pessimistic, and I hope I’m wrong, but for now, it seems amateur races out in CO easter plains are about all I can hope for.

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