The inaugural Tour of Missouri kicked the level of bike racing up a notch with the participation of the top North American teams as well as teams from Europe.
The inclusion of the dominant Discovery Channel team, featuring Tour de France winner Alberto Contador and third place finisher Levi Leipheimer, as well as cycling legend George Hincapie, also drew more attention to the race than ever and ensured huge crowds along the six-stage, 960 km route.
Riding beside the best in the world was Whistler’s own Will Routley, who is coming off an August where he had five wins in regional races and placed second in the overall B.C. Cup standings — despite the fact he missed half of the events.
Routley said he did not have a chance to reflect on the fact that he was riding beside the top names in road racing, and was too busy helping to put his own team, Symmetrics Cycling, on the map.
“It was kind of cool they were there, but mostly it was just good that we were able to compete as a team at that level,” he said. “As opposed to being star-struck riding next to the Tour winner or the guys that have Tour podiums we were too busy attacking and covering moves, and too busy racing. It was really aggressive racing from start to finish, and you had to be on all the time. Only two breakaways in six days actually got away.”
Symmetrics brought a full team of eight riders to Missouri, but four of Routley’s teammates were tired and sick from the Vuelta a Venezuela the previous week. Still, the four healthy riders picked up the slack and together Symmetrics managed to earn three podiums. Andrew Randell also finished eighth overall in the general classification, while Symmetrics placed seventh out of 16 teams.
More importantly, the race clinched the overall Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) America Tour title for Symmetrics, with the overall tour champion being Symmetrics rider Svein Tuft — a first for an all-Canadian road rider and team.
The points acquired by Symmetrics should be enough to earn Canada at least one additional berth in the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing, bringing the number of Canadian riders to three.
According to Routley, a strong showing in Missouri was a great way to wrap up the 2006-07 season. The 2007-08 season gets underway in October with the Vuelta Chihuahua Internacional in Mexico.
“It was awesome to establish ourselves by contending at that level, especially considering that the majority of American and European teams have a bigger budget and more experience,” he said. “I don’t think anybody thought a few years ago when the team was formed that Symmetrics would be doing as well as we are. We’ve had a phenomenal year.