After serving as a Traveling Course Marshal for the inaugural Tour of Missouri last year, I had every intention of signing up again for it this year. It was a great way to follow the TOM – I saw every stage from on the course, most days from two points along the course and the finish, and my ID badge got me incredibly close to the riders and podium ceremonies after each stage. By the end of the Tour, my TOM cap bore such notable autographs as Daren Lill (Stage 3 Best Young Rider), Luciano Pagliarini (Stage 3 winner), Danny Pate (Stage 6 winner), and the “Big C” himself – Alberto Contador (reigning Tour de France champion). However, the siren call of bugs got the better of me, and I ended up scheduling a trip to hunt for tiger beetles in South Dakata and Nebraska later this month. Taking off work also this past week to follow the first 5 stages just wouldn’t be possible, but Stages 6 and 7 over the weekend were still a go.
I am fortunate in that my wife – and even my two daughters – also enjoy watching professional cycling, especially my wife. She has watched every minute of OLN/VS coverage of every stage of the Tour of France right alongside me for the past several years except last year – when she traveled to France with me to follow the TdF live! This year she and Mollie fell in love with Mark Cavendish, so it took no convincing them to make this a TOM weekend. For Stage 6 from Hermann to St. Charles, we had planned to go out to Augusta and watch the riders climb the Schleursburg – I remember driving past the crowds last year in our Marshal’s van and being amazed at the insane crowd, just like what I’ve seen in the TdF. But girls will be girls, and especially daughters will be daughters, and by the time we got out of the house I didn’t think we would have enough time to get there before the peleton came through. We might have made it, but rather than risk it we decided to head over to the finish in St. Charles instead. We got there fairly early, so we had choice pickins for where we wanted to watch the finish and staked out our claim up against the fence ~15 meters before the finish line. With the riders coming towards us on a nice long straightaway, we were primed for a great view of the final seconds of the race. I had lots of time to walk around, look at the booths, sign up for free bikes at every opportunity, and chat with or wave to people I knew (Bernd, Daniel, Carla, Amy, Mike W., Kong, Aaro, Jamie, Eduardo). TK, Phil, Craig – you guys didn’t see me.
There was a breakaway for much of the stage that looked like it might stick, but my wife and older daughter were hoping against it – they wanted Mark Cavendish to win. I guess secretly that’s also what I was hoping for – it’s like going to a baseball game (back when I used to do that) and hoping to see Mark McGuire hit a home run. They got the first part of their wish when everything came together a few miles from town, and when we saw the helecopter flying overhead and the race vehicles coming through we enjoyed the building excitement. Eventually, the peleton came into view and started charging down the finishing straight. I set my camera on ‘burst’ and without even looking at the viewfinder just snapped away as Mark Cavendish exploded off the front and took his third stage win of the tour. Ivan Dominguez – winner of two stages last year – took second in front of homeboy Brad Huff but had nothing on the man from the Isle of Man. The girls got their wish, I got my wish, and in the end I think we all had a lot more fun than had we made it to the Schleursburg. Thank goodness girls will be girls.
A few photos from the finish and the awards ceremony – admittedly not the best, but they’ll do.
Stage 6 leaders (L-R): Dominique Rollin (Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team) – King of the Mountains, Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) – Best Young Rider, Christian Vande Velde (Team Garmin-Chipotle H3O) – Overall Leader, Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia) – Sprint Leader, and Bernhard Eisel (Team Columbia) – Most Aggressive Rider