It looks as if elite, world-class bicycle racing is simmering into Missouri’s political snit of the summer.

It looks as if elite, world-class bicycle racing is simmering into Missouri’s political snit of the summer.

Will there or will there not be a fourth Tour of Missouri, a late-summer event meant to catapult the state onto a world stage with a weeklong race?

The state has supported the event in its first three years – that was the original plan – but the state’s Division of Tourism has said for some time that funds just wouldn’t be there for this year. The General Assembly approved the money, but overall cut tourism deeply from $20 million to $13.9 million, and proponents want $1 million of that for the Tour. Having gotten no satisfaction from tourism officials, proponents are trying to raise pressure on Gov. Jay Nixon, as if he would give them a different answer. At a stop in Kansas City on Wednesday, he again said it’s one of many things that would be nice to fund, but the state just can’t. He’s cut more than $1 billion in state spending since taking office and hundreds of million more in cuts are coming, so $1 million in that context is pretty small.

Some of this is getting a little over the top. The Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation is calling it “Tour of Missouri-gate.” And add this spice to the mix: The Tour’s biggest proponent has been Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, considered likely to run against Democrat Nixon in 2012. (Apparently the stereotypes about cold-hearted Republicans and free-spending Democrats are out the window because Nixon and Kinder have switched roles on this one.)

This has just enough goofy ingredients for a political gumbo that will leave everyone with heartburn.

Proponents say the event has been a winner for taxpayers as local economies around the state get a boost when the cyclists and fans roll through.

Fair enough, but let’s take a closer look at that. Which cities are benefiting? OK, start with Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield. That’s obvious. They are the three largest cities in the state, and they have been part of the event every year. St. Joseph, Rolla, Lebanon, St. Charles and Branson have gotten a piece of the pie a couple of times. That sounds about right. Columbia, Sedalia, Cape Girardeau and Chillicothe – once each. Sure.

But what about Hannibal or Joplin? Moberly, Macon or Maryville? And – ahem – what about three of the 10 largest cities in the state: No. 4 Independence, No. 6 Lee’s Summit and No. 10 Blue Springs. All are in Eastern Jackson County, where not one bicycle has passed through. The point is that all state taxpayers have kicked in for this, but the payoffs have been sprinkled unevenly.  Maybe it’s communities that need to step up with some help.

Last year’s leg of the race in Kansas City was sponsored by Cerner. Emerson picked up Farmington to Rolla, and the Wind Capital Group sponsored Chillicothe to St. Joseph. That needs to be the model. The race needs to stand on its own.