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Tour of Missouri?

Update [2006-10-19 2:34:43 by chris]: Never mind. You can read the entire post below, if you want, but it's kind of stupid.

VeloNews posts a press release from a coalition of political and chambers of commerce types wherein they announce a new addition to the US pro cycling calendar: the Tour of Missouri. The idea is that Missouri can plug the gap between the US Nationals in South Carolina in early September and the end-of-the-month Worlds by staging six days of pro racing.

I welcome input from people who actually know something about Missouri (although I can name the capital, and it's one of the trickier ones). But the press release is making me feel a bit uncomfortable. Here are the money quotes:

"Missouri is known as the Show-Me State, and we look forward to showing our state to spectators around the world through the Tour of Missouri," Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt said.  "This event has great potential to bring economic benefits to our state and is an opportunity for us to join these world class cyclists to spread the message of the positive benefits of an active and healthy lifestyle."

Lt. Governor Peter Kinder, in his role as Chairman of the Missouri Tourism Commission remarked, "The Tour of Missouri is an exciting way to showcase our beautiful state. The entire state will be surprised and pleased by the size and economic impact this event will have on Missouri and Missouri's tourism industry. This race represents millions of additional dollars each year being pumped into our larger cities and our smaller rural areas."

What's bothering me is any mention of Cycling, particularly such things as why this race is good for the sport. In the end the race probably benefits Cycling, however much an afterthought. It will bring lots of attention in an area where the sport could use it, and more money than, say, if there were no Tour of Missouri. After all, look at the positive effects of the Tour of Georgia, this from a state that beforehand could just maybe have claimed top-10 status in US cycling, if that.

So yes, I'm not against the race happening. It just sounds from the press release like the politicians view Cycling as something to be mined for tourist dollars. And the corollary to this concept is that once Cycling stops yielding dollars, it should be boarded up and abandoned without a moment's thought.

F--- that. If this is a billboard parade through a bunch of cheesy Ozark resorts on man-made lakes choked with non-native fish, count me out. I refuse to apply my love of the sport to an event that puts advertising first and the race such a distant second. It's horribly crass to me to think of guys like Fast Freddy putting their heart and soul into the bike, so they can be shamelessly used to increase hotel occupancy at the Lake of the Ozarks. From the sound of it, Gov. Blunt has no interest whatsoever in Cycling beyond what it can do ($) for him. Not one single sentence about why Cycling is a good thing, or why it belongs in Missouri. Not to get all sappy, but this is a sport whose top races are century-old legends literally hewn into the landscapes they occupy. The presser treats the event like they were adding a stop on the WWF tour. Maybe they'll surprise us and come up with a beautiful course that makes for a fine race -- presumably the boring details of Cycling are being left to people who are actually part of the sport. And Missouri is a large state with lots of climate zones and scenic beauty and whatnot. But its highest point, Taum Sauk Mountain, looks slightly less challenging to ride than my daily commute across north Seattle (65th St, not that mamby-pamby Ravenna Blvd route).

I will try to keep an open mind, and I am aware that Cycling's current economic predicament means the sport cannot get too picky. But this year we saw the tours of Georgia, California and Utah, all races that were made with Cycling in mind, beautiful courses that justify the esteemed participation they got, if not more so. Numerous other states (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, New York, West Virginia, Colorado for pete's sake) beg for major stage races long before Missouri does. To the Tour of Missouri, I say show me. Heh heh, bet you didn't see that last one coming...