Defending champion Vande Velde riding in 2009 Tour of Missouri

Christian Vande Velde will return to the 2009 Tour of Missouri bike race from Sept. 7 to 13 to defend his title.

The Illinois born and bred cyclist for Team Garmin-Slipstream had previously been on an early roster for the Vuelta a Espana, which runs through nearly the entire month of September, precluding him from riding in Missouri.

He'll be joined at the third Tour of Missouri bike race by teammates David Zabriskie, a time trial specialist, and Steven Cozza, judged the “best young rider” at the inaugural Tour of Missouri in 2007.

Vande Velde was looking for another amazing year in 2009 to follow up with his break-out year in 2008, which included wearing the pink leader's jersey at the Giro d'Italia and a 5th place finish at the Tour de France.

A crash during the 2009 Giro, however, put those plans on hold. First he had to recover from seven broken bones, including five vertabrae. Somehow he was mended by this year's Tour de France and battled to an 8th place finish.

Vande Velde's challengers include George Hincapie, the winner of the first Tour of Missouri. Columbia also is bringing sprint phenom Mark Cavendish, who will be facing off against Norway's Thor Hushovd, who won the sprint champion jersey at this year's Tour de France.

(Update: Levi Leipheimer will ride for Team Astana)

In addition to Garmin-Slipstream and Columbia, other ProTour teams to be represented at the Tour of Missouri include Astana, Cervélo TestTeam, Liquigas, Saxo Bank and Quickstep. Domestic teams participating in 2009 include BISSELL Pro Cycling Team, BMC Racing, Colovita / Sutter Home presented by Cooking Light, Jelly Belly, Kelly Benefit Strategies, OUCH presented by Maxxis, and Team Type 1. Canada's Planet Energy rounds out the field.

The race will be broadcast and webcast on Universal Sports.

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