Team Astana in this year's Tour of Missouri

Team Astana recently announced their participation in this years Tour of Missouri.

Of course, this raises the question--which of Astana's team members will be coming? Leipheimer, Contador, Kloden, Armstrong?

And how might Armstrong's recent collarbone break come into play? Will it put him off his training schedule for mid-Summer events (like the Tour de France) and more likely to aim for events in late summer?

Tour of Missouri announces participation of powerful Astana to team line up

Team Astana is led by several top riders, including American Lance Armstrong

Event organizers and Missouri Lt. Governor Peter Kinder today announced the participation of Team Astana, widely considered the world's top stage racing team currently, to the line up for the Tour of Missouri, an elite professional cycling race scheduled for September 7-13, 2009.

The Kazakstan-registered Astana team joins previously announced top United States-based teams Garmin-Slipstream and Columbia-High Road, one of Italy's top pro tour teams Liquigas, as well as the Swiss-based Cervelo Test Team. Astana's participation marks the fifth entrant into the 15-team field.

"This is a big development for the Tour of Missouri," said Chris Aronhalt, the managing partner of event organizer Medalist Sports. "To have the participation of Astana is yet another huge step for this race. The Tour of Missouri's reputation is evidently very solid in the minds of the top teams and riders. To have Team Astana join the already great line-up of teams is good for all coming to see the 2009 Tour of Missouri."

Astana is the team of top Americans Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer. Their roster also includes 2007 Tour de France winner Alberto Cantador of Spain, who raced in the inaugural Tour of Missouri, and Tour de France podium finisher Andres Kloden of Germany.

"We are very much looking forward to coming to the Tour of Missouri. We like to compete in the big American races," said Johan Bruyneel, the general manager of Team Astana. "The Tour of Missouri is a very good race and will be competitive this year looking at the initial roster of teams. As always, we will bring a very good team to compete for the win."

The overall course will start in St. Louis and end in Kansas City, routing more than 600 miles of the Show-Me State. Last year an estimated 435,000 spectators lined the roadside for the event; while people from 145 countries watched live coverage via the world webcast of the event.

A pair of Americans have won the first iterations of the race: Christian Vande Velde, who finished fourth overall in the Tour de France before winning in 2008; and George Hincapie, who won the inaugural race in 2007. Both Vande Velde and Hincapie are expected back with their Garmin-Slipstream and Columbia-High Road teams, respectively, this year.

"To welcome Team Astana to the field is great for the state," said Missouri Lt. Governor Peter Kinder. "Noting they are one of the world's best teams will surely draw large crowds and media attention to our state. It's another sign this race is growing into one of the premier cycling events in the world." Race rosters will not be announced until next August but team directors are already talking about sending many of their top stars, said Aronhalt.

The race will be contested over seven days and seven stages. There will be two circuit races (St. Louis, Kansas City), one individual time trial (Sedalia), and four point to point road races (Ste. Genevieve to Cape Girardeau; Farmington to Rolla; St. James to Jefferson City; Chillicothe to St. Joseph).

Though a stellar world-class field was presented last year, the three-year-old race is expected to be even better as the Tour of Missouri was granted an upgrade to one of the top five-ranked events outside Europe by international and national federation's for cycling. Additional teams will be announced in coming weeks.

The Tour of Missouri's premier sponsors to-date are Missouri Tourism, Missouri Farm Bureau of Jefferson City and St. Louis-based companies Drury Hotels, Emerson and Edward Jones.

Industry sponsors to date are MAVIC, Yakima, and Hincapie Sportswear.

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