Road

Missouri kicks off Monday with Cavendish, Leipheimer, Hincapie and Vande Velde

The strongest field to line up on American soil since February’s Amgen Tour of California will roll off Monday afternoon in St. Louis on stage 1 of the Tour of Missouri. Tour de France stars Levi Leipheimer, Mark Cavendish, Christian Vande Velde, Thor Hushovd, George Hincapie, Jens Voigt and many others will be among those shooting for stage wins or the overall in the seven-day race.

The strongest field to line up on American soil since February’s Amgen Tour of California will roll off Monday afternoon in St. Louis on stage 1 of the Tour of Missouri.

Tour de France stars Levi Leipheimer, Mark Cavendish, Christian Vande Velde, Thor Hushovd, George Hincapie, Jens Voigt and many others will be among those shooting for stage wins or the overall in the seven-day race.

Stage 1 on Labor Day is a 10-lap, 75-mile circuit race that has Cavendish’s name all over it. Stage 2 on Tuesday is a rolling, 112-mile race from Ste. Genevieve that concludes with finishing circuits in Cape Girardeau. Stage 3 on Wednesday will take riders though the Ozark Mountains, in a 114-mile march from Farmington to Rolla. Stage 4 on Thursday, from St. James to Jefferson City, features the same circuit finish as last year with the steep 300-meter uphill sprint.

The general classification will likely be decided by the time trial on Friday at Sedalia. The 19-mile course on Missouri’s State Fairgrounds will shake out the top of the leaderboard. Stage 6 on Saturday takes riders from Chillicothe to St. Joseph, and stage 7 wraps up the race with a hilly, 72-mile circuit in Kansas City.

VeloNews.com will be covering the race with live text feeds plus daily reports and photography.

The names to watch

Besides 2007 race winner Hincapie and Cavendish, Columbia-HTC is bringing Cav’s leadout man Mark Renshaw, Michael Rogers, Marco Pinotti and Canadian and 2008 Missouri stage winner Michael Barry.

Three-time Tour of California winner Levi Leipheimer will spearhead the Astana squad, which will also include Yaroslav Popovych, Steve Morabito, Andrey Zeits, Sergey Renev, Gregory Rast, Dmitri Muravyev, and Tour de Georgia winner Jani Brajkovic.

Brajkovic went to Colorado for altitude training in between the Tour of Ireland and the Tour of Missouri.

“Colorado is awesome, the roads are great,” Brajkovic told trainingpeaks.com. “I don’t even know how good I am now because of all this altitude, but once I come back to sea level, I should gain some more power. We’ll see at the time trial in Missouri.”

Garmin-Slipstream is bringing two big GC guns with defending race champion Vande Velde and recently crowned U.S. time trial champion Dave Zabriskie.

The popular German rider Jens Voigt will join his Tour de France teammates Chris Anker Sorensen, Gustav Larsson and Nicki Sorensen for Saxo Bank. The Danish team’s roster also include American Jason McCartney, Argentine sprinter JJ Haedo, Lars Bak and Marcus Lungqvist.

Tour de France stage and green jersey winner Hushovd and Milan-San Remo runner-up Heinrich Haussler will lead Cervélo TestTeam. American Ted King, who made his grand tour debut at the Giro d’Italia this year, will also take the start.

Other teams in Missouri include ProTour squads Quick Step and Liquigas, plus BMC, Colavita-Sutter Home, Kelly Benefit Strategies, Jelly Belly, Bissell, Team Type 1, OUCH-Maxxis and Planet Energy.