KOLR: Local Bikers Worry About Losing Tour of Missouri

by Kevin Schwaller

Local cyclists are spinning over the future of the state's biggest bike race. Governor Jay Nixon has asked all state departments to shave significant amounts from their budgets, and that could jeopardize the Tour of Missouri. Members of Springbike Bicycle Club say the tour has helped them get people interested in cycling. They say canceling the tour would put an end to a huge tourism draw for the state.

"It's nice to have one of the major events here in Missouri," said local cyclist Chris Baker.These are no casual cyclists. Some members of the club ride 50 miles everyday but that doesn't mean these cyclists are ready for the tour.

"The relatives that we have they'll ask us, well why aren't you racing in the tour of Missouri?" said Vice President of the club John Bradley. "Well even at our best we couldn't hang on to the end of the peloton."

"You know along with California, it'd be one of the only two major events in the country," said Baker.

Now possible cuts are jeopardizing the event's future. Governor Nixon's administration is looking to balance the budget in the face of a projected shortfall in revenue.

"It seems if you're going to make a discussion to cut you ought to cut things that that purely take money not money that generates money," said Springbike's president David Ritchey.

Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder (R) posted a letter on the Tour website as part of a public relations campaign to convince the governor to keep the funding for the race. He says, among other things, that the tour would quote cease to exist if the governor cuts the funds. He also says the race has already brought nearly $60 million dollars of economic impact for the state.

Lieutenant Governor Kinder also says the Nixon administration froze the state money for the race. The state's commitment for the 2009 tour was $1.5 million.

"We're in a difficult process right now to make sure the amount of money coming in matches the amount of money going out," said Governor Jay Nixon (D).

Governor Nixon says his office is still looking at the possible cuts, part of keeping the state's budget on track.

"This is just another part of what we're doing in the state of Missouri so that we're not going to end up like California or like Illinois or other states where basic services are being threatened," said the governor.

Friday, the Missouri Tourism Commission voted 7-0 to keep the funding for the race. The governor has not made his decision on the future of that money.

This year's race is scheduled to start September 7.

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