Overall race leader Mark Cavendish of Team Columbia gained his second consecutive stage victory, finishing a bike-length ahead of the bunched peloton to capture stage two of the Tour of Missouri in Springfield, Mo. Cavendish, who won four stages at the 2008 Tour de France, was followed to the line by Eric Baumann of Sparkasse and team Liquigas' Francesco Chicch.



After today's action, Cavendish stretched his lead in the General Classification to 12 seconds over Chicchi, whose Stage Two performance moved him to second place in the G.C. while Baumann rounds out the top three. Notable American riders in the G.C. top 25 after Stage Two include George Hincapie (Team Columbia) in 18th place and Christian Vande Velde in 24th place.

Cavendish's teammates positioned him for victory by controlling the peloton for the entire race and ensuring that an early breakaway group of five riders didn't gained too much time on the field. The breakaway was caught just before reaching the final circuits in Springfield, then Team Columbia jousted with riders from Sparkasse and Garmin-Chipotle to give Cavendish the position he needed coming into the final straightaway.

"It was a case of keeping our position until the last two kilometers and then hitting out," said Cavendish of his team's strategy in the race's final moments. "The pace was so high that I was dropped off at 150 meters to go. Nothing else to do but win really, it was as simple as that. "

Sunny skies and a large group cheering fans greeted riders as they embarked from Clinton, Mo. and its historic downtown square. The longest stage of the Tour provided a battleground for elite sprinters with two Edward Jones Sprint competitions (Stockton and Willard.) After a rapid fire series of break attempts, a five-man breakaway group formed at the 20-mile mark of the race. Mike Sayers (BMC Racing), Andy Guptill (Colavita/Sutter Home), Andreas Schillinger (Sparkasse), Reid Mumford (Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast) and Andrew Randell (Symmetrics) hit off through the picturesque farmland and woodland areas of southwestern Missouri. Their group's advantage over the field hovered around three minutes for most of the race before disintegrating prior to the finishing circuits in Springfield.

For Guptill's efforts in today's break, he was awarded the Drury Hotels Aggressive Rider Jersey. Cavendish will continue to wear the Missouri Tourism Leader's jersey. He is also Edward Jones Sprint Leader and THF Realty Best Young Rider points leader. The latter two jerseys will be worn tomorrow by the riders holding second place in the respective competitions, with Chicchi in the sprint jersey and Kohler (BMC) donning the best young rider. Today's race didn't offer riders an opportunity to earn Michelob Ultra King of the Mountain points, leaving Dominique Rollin of Toyota United Pro Cycling as the jersey wearer going into stage 3.

While Stage Two's course encompasses a sparsely populated region of Missouri, fans from towns along the route came out in large numbers, including many young students given the day off to the experience the race and cheer the riders on.

"You see a town sign that says 'population 95', a very small town but it seems like the entire town will be out there, " said Guptill. "It's never really a dull moment; there is always some sort of motivation and people always yelling out there."

Stage Three, the Individual Time Trial (ITT), starts in Branson, Mo. at 11:00 a.m. The starting order for the (ITT) follows in the reverse order of the G.C. standings with each rider taking off from the start ramp in one minute intervals. The final ten riders will leave in two minute intervals. The ITT course, which was used during the 2007 Tour of Missouri, starts at the Landing and challenges riders with three climbs, including a 2.5 mile trek to Shepherd of the Hills Homestead and Outdoor Center, which was featured in John Wayne's movie of the same title.