Missouri Governor Jay Nixon is in danger of pissing off a whole bunch of cycling fans and costing the state much needed revenue. Nixon has placed a hold on 1.5 million dollars of tourism funds needed to operate the Tour of Missouri - a seven day stage race across the state in September. The world's best cycling teams have already committed to this year's TOM, as fans call it. Pulling the race sponsor (The Department of Tourism) seems shortsighted especially in light of the media-saturation that surrounds the Lance Comeback Tour; more so given that Team Astana, the Kazakhstan squad that includes Armstrong will be riding again this year. Astana also includes the American Levi Leipheimer, but more importantly Alberto Contador, the best stage rider in the world.
Team Astana is poised to crush the field in this year's Tour de France and Lance will likely end up on the podium in Paris - a step or two below his teammates. There's a chance that Astana could do the unheard of, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, a feat that would do as much for Lance's comeback as a win. The press that Armstrong brings to the sport is beyond measure - especially in America. Most of the other big names in cycling, Garmin-Slipstream, Columbia High Road, Ceverlo Test Team, and Liquidgas will also be in the 2009 Tour of Missouri. Although 1.5 million may sound like a lot of money, the race is by far the most watched sporting event in the state and generates an estimated $30 million in revenues over a 2-week period. It highlights the state just before the fall foliage season. Not to mention football. I bet half the fans of the both the Chiefs and Rams come from out-of-state. Same for the baseball teams. It would seem like a no-brainer for the State's chief executive officer but Nixon's beef may have more to do with politics than money.
Unless Nixon decides to remove the training wheels from his tricycle, he may be surprised to learn that many cyclists are politically active, most are probably Democrats (as is Nixon), and this is the wrong year to cancel a major cycling event. With the Lance comeback; public appetite for professional cycling is at an all time high. I'll say that again for the governor. ALL TIME HIGH! And this without performance enhancing drugs.
Lt.Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican, and without whom the TOM would never have happened has used the race over the last few years as a low key campaign event - but every politician uses every public event that's successful as a low key political event. Kinder takes the stage at the start and end of most races and proceeds to let everyone know who he is since for the most part, Lt. Governors are rarely seen and heard. Unless the Governor resigns under a cloud of controversy (Rod Blagovitch replaced by Pat Quinn) or appointed to the Cabinet (Nancy Sebelius replaced by Mark Parkinson) nobody has a clue who holds the office of Lt. Governor.
If you want to tell Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to take the training wells of his tricycle contact him at: 573-751-3222 or email the governor and his staff
Images: Top. Mark "the fastest man in the peleton" Cavendish speaks after his win in stage 1 of the 2008 Tour of Missouri.
Bottom. Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder softens the crowd before the real action begins.