Not much happening here. I’ve been busy on other sites, including my latest at http://zombiebooks.net. I’m writing about zombies that invade St. Louis!
I’m not sure why I even bother, but I just can’t let this rest. The 2009 race is happening right now, and NOW is the time we should be forcing our politicians to make the decision on keeping the race next year. It would show good faith from the state, and remove the dark scythe hanging ominously above this race. Even as the riders toil in the heat of the Missouri outlands – announcers, fans, and everyone else is saying this race is death warmed over…yet I don’t get the sense anyone is particularly concerned or doing anything about it! The press should be constantly in the Governors face this whole week, talking about the good things this race is doing for Missouri this very instant, and get him on record either supporting it or explaining why it is bad for the state to support it.
Missouri is on the cusp of losing one of the most positive PR sporting events in the history of the state because they can’t get their act together. I figure investing 1.5M dollars in return for 30M+ in revenues which are generated from having this seven day INTERNATIONAL sporting event would be a no-brainer. Is it politics? Democratic Governor of Missouri wants it dead. Republican Lt. Governor fought like hell to save it this year with an 11th hour rescue. Can it really be that inane?
There are three big bike races in the United States, though the Tour de Georgia apparently took this year off as they seek sponsors to foot the bill for 2010. This leaves the Tour of Missouri and the Tour of California with 2009 races. And here we are in prime time in the world’s eyes, and the state of Missouri looks like a bunch of chumps as we bumble around not knowing if the race will be back next year. This hurts potential future sponsorships, this hurts television coverage (why bother if it is going to be canceled next year?), and it hurts Missouri tourism which is the primary sponsor of this race.
And, in what seems like a continuing series of complaints about the City of St. Louis and race planners, someone got the bright idea to place the start/finish line directly next to a median full of flowers on Market Street. Then the announcers had the gall to berate anyone who was standing in the flower beds! Congratulations – once again St. Louis looks like they can’t get their act together. As you can see from this photo, the flowers are literally next to the start/finish – not somewhere people were standing just to be mean or bad citizens (as was implied by the announcers).
I just can’t fathom why it is so important to have the race start and end in such a confined space, with literally 10 feet on either side of the race chute available for spectators. If you aren’t standing on the guardrails for the entire race to protect your spot, you can forget about seeing the finish in real time. I found this out the previous 2 years I’ve been to this race. What this does is force people to hold their spots the whole four hours, rather than mosey around the tents to see what else is there. Is it really that difficult to find some grand stands for people? Why not have some high schools provide stands, and in return let them march their bands in between laps for some entertainment for the crowd? The only entertainment we got was one motorcyclist doing stunts (interestingly enough, he is the only piece of entertainment for three years running). Come on St. Louis, this is the best we can do? One act?
This year there were no large screen TV’s showing the race at the finish line like previous years – which meant that once the peloton rounded the corner we had almost no idea what was going on. This was bad.
Is it really so difficult to start and end the race somewhere like Forest Park, ideally along a hillside so that spectators could relax, bring blankets, enjoy the park, and see a good race without standing along hot guardrails for 4 hours? Have the circuit go downtown to get your precious face time for the city, but don’t make the fans suffer for it. Better still, have St. Louis be an end point of a stage race, rather than a circuit race. Do a shot downtown, then a few laps through Forest Park for the big ending. I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but the St. Louis circuit race is almost a carbon copy each year. Time to mix it up.
Finally, I can say one good thing about this year in St. Louis – the photographers were asked to move back up the road far enough that they didn’t block all the spectators who were trying to see the big finish. In year 1 they were right up at the finish line, making it impossible to see the winning sprint if you were behind them. Not sure where they were in year 2 because I couldn’t see the finish. Definitely an improvement.
And not to be totally negative, here are some ideas for improvement;
1. Improve the start/finish area. Totally unacceptable to pack everyone in on a few small sidewalks, or worse in a half-mile of flower beds, and expect that to be OK. Think this through a bit more next time.
2. There must be TV’s for spectators at the start/finish.
3. Bring in entertainment between laps if there is a circuit race. You are trying to promote tourism. Why not have Fred Bird there? St. Louis Rams cheerleaders. High school marching bands. Allow regular bikers the ability to ride en masse through the start gate to get a taste of the race first hand and get on TV and get their bikes signed by riders later? Surely there are other ideas for entertainment which showcase Missouri that would do it for the positive exposure alone?
4. Have a camera on a roof top so as to capture the look of the peloton as it goes through the gate and as the big sprint happens at the end (since we can’t have helicopters this might be a poor man’s substitute).
5. If you are having money trouble, why not chip in with some other states to help? The Tour de France isn’t solely a French affair, and it regularly travels in a half dozen other countries over the years. Nobody wants to lose the exclusivity of only running through Missouri, but would it kill us to have a route spend time in neighboring states in return for help funding the Tour? Off the top of my head, I could see a route going into Alton, doing a small loop in Illinois, and then heading back over the bridge. A quick jaunt by the slaughter houses of the Kansas side of Kansas City might add some flavor to the race…
6. Politicians need to figure out a way to work together on this. The tourism dollars alone make the decision to support the tour a NO BRAINER! If we throw this away because of politics it will be a black stain on Missouri.
7. Get real time TV coverage. How can an event this big, in our home state, not rate some kind of full length TV coverage? I suspect it is because no one can sell advertising for this event. Well congratulations – that is exactly what wishy washy support from the State of Missouri will do for you. No one is going to pay for advertising on an event that no one knows is going to be around almost up until the time it happens!
8. Talk to Lance Armstrong. If you can get him interested in having his Livestrong foundation have some role in the race, even making his group a prominent co-sponsor at no cost, the publicity alone will bring in tons more spectators. Lance could single handed-ly save the Tour if the Missouri folks could play it smart.
I love the fact that Missouri has this incredible opportunity, and I fully expected the race would be canned this year. I’m impressed that even at the late hour the race was saved, we were able to get seven professional racing teams to show up (we had 3 last year apparently). Kudos to race organizers for doing the best they could with the time they were given. The race has lots of potential, even as other races fall from grace (Georgia). But if Missouri blows this because of petty politics I’m going to be very disappointed in our elected representatives. Not surprised mind you, just disappointed.
I’m not sure what the answer is here. I’m just a guy who loves watching bike racing and I hate to watch this slow motion train wreck happen. But what can we do to force the issue here, and fast? I don’t know…
This past weekend I finally got out on some dirt this year, after doing some training laps for 4 or 5 weeks around my neighborhood. It was good to be back in the saddle and off cement, but it was a short but interesting ride…
The technical section of the trail isn’t too bad when you are in top form, but I clearly was lacking my normal balance and drive, which made the descents harrowing and the ascents brutal. The large rocky “ramp” section up was too much to even try. However, I didn’t crash, I had a lot of fun, and I eventually hit my stride on the flats down by the river. After dodging poison ivy for several miles, trying to say out of the mud bogs -this section was recently flooded- and even finding a bridge out, I had to turn around because I knew I wouldn’t make it back to the car before it got dark.
And then something happened that I couldn’t have prepared for; I got stung by a wasp! As I was happily pedaling along, minding my own business, a wasp flew into my half-open mouth – causing me to instinctively close it. This apparently made it very angry and it stung the inside of my lip. Fortunately I am not allergic to bug stings, but I was fairly alarmed as the inside of my lip swelled to the size of a small super ball. The ice in my camel back had long ago melted and I had nothing but water to apply to keep down the swelling…all my sting ointments in my first aid kit were for external use only!
So I did the only thing I could do, which was pedal. I was about 5 miles from the car, but I was able to catch some pavement for most of the return trip. I felt like a goof with a big swollen lip, but there were no spectators out in this part of the world – so I made it back with my pride. A stop at Quick Trip for some ice really helped the swelling and by the time I got home my wife didn’t even notice it until I said something.
If I learned one lesson it was the need for some sort of cold technology in my first aid kit to use to reduce swelling in emergencies such as this. You just never know what is going to happen around the next corner!
Sadly -or maybe fortunately- I didn’t have my camera with me to document the event.
This was the second year of going to this race here in St. Louis, and where last year was well hyped and well attended – this year we had to contend with Hurricane Ike going through the morning of the race. Thus, attendance was much lower, part of the race course was truncated due to flooding, and it rained a bit in the first part of the day. Despite all that, my dad and I still had a nice time seeing this race.
One of the biggest side effects of seeing all this enthusiastic bike riding was that it reignited my passion for biking. Over the last few weeks since this race I have been riding locally to try to get back into good enough shape to hit the trails again. In fact this weekend I have plans to actually find some dirt! Thank you Tour of Missouri!
The race itself is a great experience for anyone interested in biking. There is a lot of excitement, booths, and of course the hip bike-friendly people who show up for these things. We will definitely be coming back next year, and doubly so if Lance Armstrong finds his way here.
Tons of pictures on my photo site.
For my first post it is fitting that I include my playground buddy, G-man. G and I often give mom the nights off so she can relax by going on adventures around town. More often than not this involves a trip to the playground and his favorite pastime of swinging!
Tonight we took an adventure to Suson Park, in South St. Louis County, Missouri. They recently rebuilt the entire playground with all new equipment, new soft surfacing, and landscaping. It has become one of the nicest parks on the south side of the city, and easily beats the parks in Jefferson County.
I know that looking closely at this picture G-man appears to be far from having fun, but what he is actually doing is displaying his displeasure at having his picture taken by a strange person he doesn’t know. A kind man offered to snap a picture of the two of us – and you can clearly see that one of us was more excited than the other! G perked up as soon as the camera was turned off, of course.