Dominguez wins first stage of inaugural Tour of Missouri

Updated: September 11, 2007, 8:54 PM ET
Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Ivan Dominguez of Cuba fought off cramps and a hill on the final stretch to break out of a tight group of riders to win the first stage of the inaugural Tour of Missouri on Tuesday.

Dominguez, riding for Toyota-United, was without any team members to help as he took the lead with about 300 yards to go and finished in 3:05:37.

Each Bell of Symmetries Cycling team was second, followed by Kyle Wamsley of Navigators Insurance Cycling.

Tour de France champion Alberto Contador of Discovery Channel was 85th among the team of international riders who made the 85-mile circuit beginning and ending in Kansas City's Country Club Plaza.

An estimated 40,000 spectators lined the streets and highways as the riders made their way through downtown Kansas City, along the Missouri River and through small towns in the sometimes-hilly country of northwest Missouri. Weather for Missouri's first foray into international racing was perfect -- low winds, blue skies and warm temperatures in the mid-80s.

Dominguez's average winning speed was 27.557 mph.

"I was not expecting to see that climb there," Dominguez said. "It put my legs under a little bit of pressure. I started getting tired. I looked, and thought, 'I'm going to go and see what happens.'

"And I started going and passing guys like they were standing there. I was like, 'Wow! this is great.'"

The six-day, 600-mile race started on Kansas City's Country Club Plaza, where fans applauded cycling heavyweights including Contador and American champion Levi Leipheimer, who had to pause for several minutes early in the race to replace a chain.

For their Discovery Channel team that has dominated international cycling for almost a decade and won eight of nine Tour de France titles, it will be the last race on American soil.

Discovery will soon disband, and other teams are eager to welcome its riders.

Organizers and state officials must have been pleased with the reception the riders got along the way. In every town, spectators lined the roads, many holding signs greeting the riders and thanking them for coming to Missouri. In one town, excited youngsters came spilling out of an elementary school just as the pack sped past.

Dominguez said he thought he was finished when his legs began cramping.

"Coming to that back stretch, I thought, 'This climb is going to put a lot of guys in trouble,"' he said. "I was one of those guys. It was good we had the downhill."

His victory had been predicted by many cycling fans.

"Before the race I got a lot of people came to me. They said, 'We're going to put some money on you.' I said don't put too much. I was not expecting to win this race today. I was not expecting to see that climb in the end."

The race, touted by the governor's office as the largest sporting event in the history of the state, will end on Sunday in St. Louis.

The race will pass through 20 counties and about 50 cities and towns, continuing Wednesday with a leg from Clinton to Springfield. On Sunday, the race will conclude with a circuit race in St. Louis in what will be one of the city's most crowded sports days.

Also Sunday, the St. Louis Cardinals are hosting the rival Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Rams are facing the San Francisco 49ers. That night, the NHL's St. Louis Blues will be playing their first home exhibition game.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press