The overall lead of the 2009 Tour of Missouri passed to Juan Jose Haedo of Team Saxo Bank on Thursday as he won the Stage 4 sprint in Jefferson City. (This video at left from Rochester Cycling shows the sprinters mounting a tough hill on the way to the finish.)
Brit Mark Cavendish of Team Columbia, the winner of Stage 1 and 2 and overall leader the first two days, bowed out of the race on Thursday with a respiratory infection.
Norwegian Thor Hushovd, who took over the lead by winning the sprint on Wednesday, narrowly missed a second victory on the 109-mile race from St. James to Jefferson City.
Cervelo lead out
Hushovd's Cervelo team was controlling the peloton in the final kilometers when a crash wrecked their organization. The Argentinian Haedo also got slowed in the crash but was able to fight his way back to the front to take on Hushovd.
Haedo had finished in the top 3 in every stage; the bonus time points at the finish gave him the edge for the overall lead.
With three stages left in the bike race, the sprinters have controlled the stage wins and the General Classification battles.
End of sprinters
Although the rolling hills of Missouri are a daunting prospect for cross-country bicycle travelers, apparently they're not steep enough to split the peloton. There have been small breakaways each day, but they've been reeled in before the finish, setting the stage for the sprinters.
The result has been a very tight GC battle, with 85 cyclists within a minute of the Haedo.
That will change on Friday with the 19-mile individual time trial around Sedalia. The winner of the time trial will undoubtedly take the yellow jersey and only has to protect it for two more days by finishing in the lead group to win the championship.