The slumping economy that killed a similar cycling race in Georgia won’t affect next year’s Tour of Missouri, organizers say.

The slumping economy that killed a similar cycling race in Georgia won’t affect next year’s Tour of Missouri, organizers say.
The 2-year-old Missouri event is one of just two remaining major professional stage races in the U.S., along with the California race.
The Missouri race’s return for a third year also is not dependent on a possible return by seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong on his expected comeback tour.
Jerry Dowell, the tour’s executive director, told the Columbia Daily Tribune that support from corporate sponsors is stronger than ever.
“We are quantum leaps ahead of where we were last year at this time with sponsors,” he said. “I don’t want to at all slam Georgia, but I think we’ve grown the Tour of Missouri in a smart, efficient manner, in a way that will be able to sustain itself.”
The economy has taken its toll across the sporting landscape. In recent weeks, the LPGA announced it is scaling back purses and eliminating three tournaments from next year’s women’s golf schedule, NASCAR imposed a cost-cutting ban on all vehicle testing and automaker General Motors said it plans to dramatically slice spending on sports-related advertising.
But the Missouri cycling race’s partnership with the state Division of Tourism in many ways protects it from the fluctuations of the economy.
The Tour of Georgia, which had struggled in recent years, was canceled after organizers were unable to secure a title sponsor to shoulder a significant amount of the $3.3 million needed to stage the race. The Tour of Missouri has no such issues, according to Dowell.
The state’s tourism bureau is the lead sponsor, contributing $1.7 million. The remaining money comes privately.
Dowell said more than 60 percent of sponsorships have been renewed. The tour also is looking to add significant long-term sponsors to reduce the state’s contribution. Still, the tourism bureau sees the race as an invaluable platform to showcase the state.
“We see ourselves as a partner, not a sponsor,” said Stacey Blomberg, a project manager with the Missouri Division of Tourism. “Just last year, we had people from 139 countries sign on to our Web site for the race. These are great opportunities for places such as Lebanon or Rolla and wine country to advertise to those far-out-of-the-way countries.”
According to an economic study by German research firm IFM Sports, last year’s race generated $29.8 million in new tourism dollars. The study also showed the average out-of-state fan spent more than $270 per day and that 77 percent of those tourists cited the race as the main reason for their visit.
Last year’s race drew 434,000 fans, and tour organizers see room to grow in 2009, particularly if there’s a star draw.
Armstrong already has committed to compete in the 2009 Amgen Tour of California, the other major domestic cycling event. Dowell said he expects to receive a commitment from Armstrong.
Either way, Dowell believes the race will prosper, even in the face of a daunting economy.
“Most spectators that follow cycling have a traditionally higher gross income, so those folks are going to travel,” Dowell said. “Plus, it’s a free event. Anytime you have a weak economy and people are vacationing, they are going to look closer to home. The race is strong.”