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Intending to finish the season on a high note, BMC brings a talented squad racing to win

7. September 2008

Missouri

The strong field that the Tour of Missouri can boast belies the fact that 2008 is only the second year this race has appeared on the calendar. There are no marquee stages which find the riders tackling impossibly steep and long climbs, or racing for record 250 mile distances, nevertheless the Missouri parcours will challenge the riders with constant undulation and a time trial that has been called one of the hardest in the world.

As BMC has brought a group of sprinters who can climb and climbers who can time trial, there is every expectation that the team will provide a huge exclamation point to the year with a stellar performance this coming week.      

Stage 3’s time trial will be a deciding factor

“This is the last big domestic race of the season for the team and we are pretty confident with the strong group we have brought,” Directeur Sportif John Lelangue said after taking a pleasant pre-race ride through the Missouri countryside.  “We have guys coming straight from their excellent performance at Greenville (Nationals), and our Swiss sprinters are joining us after having won some races in Switzerland, so everyone is motivated.”  In the inaugural race, a 12 man breakaway on Stage 2 basically stole the overall GC out from under the noses of several favourites.  “We will have to be attentive particularly in the first couple stages either to keep a break from getting big chucks of time, or at least to make sure we are well represented in that break!” Lelangue explained.  However, there is a hope that the dynamics of the 2008 edition will prevent a repeat of history.  “The Stage 3 time trial will decide the race,” said Darren Lill, who will be one of the two best BMC hopes for overall success. “With Cavendish racing, Columbia will be holding things together at least for the first two stages, and then after that GC considerations will takeover.”  Along with Lill, Jeff Louder will be BMC’s reliable go-to man for another big stage race win.  “I feel like I have held over my form from Utah, and have been really motivated in training this week, which isn’t always the case this time of year,” Louder said.  “The time trial will definitely be important, and is the sort of course that Darren can really excel on; Darren, Brent Bookwalter, Jonathan Garcia and I should all aspire for top finishes on a course like that.”  Judging by their performances throughout the year, BMC will not be afraid if the race does become an attack-fest.  “I really like this race because it presents a lot of good opportunities for an attacking team like ours,” Louder continued.  “Last year Garcia, Danilo Wyss and Darren did really well, and with strong sprinters who can climb like Tony Cruz and Martin Kohler, we should have a serious opportunity in every stage.”  

Smack in the middle of cycling’s silly season

In spite of competing for riders and attention against such races as the Tours of Spain and Germany, Missouri has managed in a short amount of time to draw a very dynamic group of teams and contestants.  “This is an interesting time of year with people in different shape and states of mind,” Louder said.  “It is an international peloton like the ones only seen for California and Georgia, where some guys have contracts, some don’t, some are really motivate to race and some just want to get through the next 7 days as quickly as possible, so it makes for opportunistic, open racing; it’s kinda fun.”  Since there is not a Brasstown Bald-type of stage which can be easily pointed to as the definite breaking point for the race, the team tactics have to be varied and more subtle.  “From a pure climber’s point of view, most of the stages are fairly flat,” Darren Lill admitted.  “But there are all sorts of other influences which can have a major impact, such as a day or two with serious crosswinds could blow the race apart.”  “I like a race like this where the terrain isn’t as big of an aspect; where the racers make the racing,” Louder explained.  “It reminds me a lot of some Euro races I have done where a region like Northern France or Western Germany puts together a race because they love cycling, and the locals just love having the race there.  That is how it feels in Missouri.”  BMC has already found success in the Tour of Picardie this year which is a Northern French stage race that fits Louder’s description.  They came away with the King of the Mountains prize at Picardie, and Jeff Louder won the KOM prize for the 2007 Tour of Missouri.  “We would only incidentally go after the KOM this year,” Lelangue said.  “Our main objectives will be for the GC and stage wins, and then go for any other classifications as the opportunities arise.”  Louder agreed.  “Last year the KOM jersey opportunity sort of fell into my hands, and I was very proud to win it, but in the end I think it cost me a little in the hunt for an overall finish, so this year I might try to focus on getting a little more glory!”