Can David Zabriskie defend his 2009 Tour of Missouri title? Will Mark Cavendish melt the pavement again with his high-powered sprints, or is Tyler Farrar ready to take charge? How many cyclists will succumb during the week after not respecting the relentless steep climbs through the Ozarks?
We'll never know the answers these and other questions. Organizers canceled the Tour of Missouri as the state Tourism Commission on Thursday failed to include a $1 million stipend in its budget to keep the bike race afloat.
Event chairman Michael Weiss told the St. Louis Post Dispatch:
“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. … It has been an insanely complicated battle for something so beneficial, and it’s left all of us absolutely baffled.”
2010 was to mark the fourth year of the Tour of Missouri. Due to a lack of a major sponsor — such as Amgen for the Tour of California — the Missouri organizers had looked to the state for an injection of funds to ensure the race could go off smoothly.
Because of severe budget problems in Missouri, as elsewhere, the state made huge budget cutbacks. A public campagin to fund the Tour of Missouri resulted in a huge outpouring of support for the race. The state legislature even voted in favor of funding the race.
The state Tourism Commission, however, used its discretion to leave the $1 million sought by bike race organizers out of its $13.5 million budget.
Last year, the Tour of Missouri received $1.5 million from the state and returned an estimated $1.6 million in tax money directly to state coffers from the estimated $38 million spent in the state by visitors watching the race. That doesn't include value of jobs that were created — or saved — by the goods and services that were provided during the race.
Of course I'm a little stung by the cancellation of the race and will miss the excitement created by having one of the world's top cycling events outside of Europe happen in the US this fall.
But I'm also a little surprised and concerned by the government officials who will turn down a huge promotional and tourism boost for the state, as well as a certified money-maker.