Letter from Kyle

Governor Nixon,

By now you have heard from perhaps thousands of enthusiastic cycling fans and Missourians alike, hoping you will reverse the proposed $1.5 million reduction of spending to the Tour of Missouri. It has perhaps been explained repeatedly that this is by far Missouri's largest sporting event, larger even than next week's All-Star Game in St. Louis.

Save the occasional visit by the Toronto Blue Jays to Kauffman Stadium, the Tour of Missouri is our state's only opportunity to host an international sporting contest. And this contest isn't confined to the stadia of our two major metropolitans. Over the span of a week in September, dozens of the world's top cyclists tackle the breathtaking scenery and relentless terrain of Missouri's sideroads, bringing a globally popular sport to outstate areas. Fans from around the world, many fresh from cheering on their favourite teams in France, will line the highways around Jackson, Salem, Vienna, Utica, and countless other smaller towns that otherwise would go without notice even to their fellow Missourians from Kansas City and St. Louis. These fans bring with them the spending power of the Euro, Sterling, and other world currencies, introducing new revenue into the various businesses along the route and sponsoring the tour.

For who do these fans and visitors to the Show-Me State cheer? Of the 14 teams confirmed to appear in September, seven are currently racing in le Tour de France, and among their ranks share 22 championship jerseys from cycling's big three European and American races over the past decade and seven Olympic gold medals. Aside from the Tour of California, the Tour of Missouri is their only other opportunity to experience quality competition in the United States.

I write this letter 4400 miles away, in the English county of Kent. Two years ago, the Tour de France rolled through here from London to Canterbury, and stories of that day remain popular among the natives. I have been in the area for only six weeks, and in that time have sought to promote my native Missouri to nearly everyone I meet. While the newest ambassador to the United Kingdom is a St. Louis native, I struggle to find signs of Missouri's current impact on the UK. In a recent BBC miniseries, where humourist Stephen Fry visited every state in the US, his stop in Missouri was at an abandoned warehouse in St. Louis where three homeless people were living. In terms of edibles, stores carrying wines from America have inventory only from California, ignoring our lush vineyards that the Tour of Missouri emphasises every year. The mere mention of Boulevards, toasted ravioli and pulled pork on a bun, perhaps our state's staple foods, draws blank stares. When I mention that I'm from Missouri, often I have to explain where in the United States we are and for what we're famous. Unfortunately, sometimes I have to mention a certain state to the west for context, prompting anecdotes about Dorothy and Toto.

I state the preceding because I see the potential the Tour has in promoting a positive image of Missouri to the world. I Since its inception, I have been most supportive of the Tour. In the inaugural race, I volunteered along the route at three separate stages. Were it not for my employment away from the Tour route, I would have done so last year and again this September. And since I first learned of the Tour, I feared that it would become a political football, both used by its supporters and detractors. Sadly, I believe it has become the case. I am fully aware of the partisan pressure that may be attached to resorting the funds. I too know the situation Missouri and much the world is facing economically, trying to find ways to keep afloat and re-evaluating spending priorities. Already this year's tour has an increase of sponsors, and the chance exists that next year enough sponsors will line up to negate the need for taxpayer assistance.

Of the world's most popular sports, no sport brings the top athletes to the farthest reaches of a region than cycling. It would be a considerable stretch to bring soccer's Beckham, Rooney or Ronaldo to our hometowns of DeSoto or Kirksville, and while one could predict the likelihood of Albert Pujols or Matt Cassel visiting either, they already bring positive name recognition to Missouri and thus don't capture the intrigue and buzz the way Lance Armstrong, Fabian Cancellara, Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer, Danny Pate, Christian VandeVelde and others could, should funding be fully restored to the Tour of Missouri.

The Tour of Missouri is a showcase of the entire state and puts many of our 114 counties in the spotlight. The state has poured tens of millions into athletic facilities including the Edward Jones Dome, the Chiefs' new training camp in St. Joseph, and several university athletic facilities; facilities that fans in outstate communities must drive to reach. By maintaining financial support for the Tour of Missouri, the state can not only show support for a truly international sport but also showcase an alternate method of transportation that is healthy for the rider and considerably more environmentally friendly.

Please fully restore funding to this major showcase of our great State.

Folkestone, Kent, UK

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