75th running of the Tour of Somerville takes place Memorial Day
May 12, 2018
New Jersey may be the butt of jokes by comedians looking for a quick laugh but the people in one small town in New Jersey have turned their all-American community into the international epicenter of cycling.
Somerville will host its 75th Tour of Somerville bike race series from Thursday, May 24, through Monday, May 28.
The five-day event includes parades, kids’ activities, music, entertainment, great food, and world-class athletic competition.
Spectators this year will see three days of racing beginning with the Bound Brook Criterium on Saturday, Sprint Races on Sunday, culminating with the Tour of Somerville on Monday.
Olympic champions, including Tour de France winner Greg LeMond and Olympic gold medalist Eric Heiden, have traveled from across the globe to central Jersey to race in Somerville.
Even the concept of the criterium, a 1-mile circuit race first launched in Somerville, has been adopted by the French as the Criterium de Dauphine and is used throughout cycling as a national championship event. Still not convinced?
Somerville also gave birth to the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, launched in the early 80s by a group of residents and cycling enthusiasts who saw the need to preserve bicycling history.
The U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame is now a “Who’s Who” of U.S. cycling greats starting with Pop Kugler, the bike shop owner who created the Tour of Somerville.
For 75 years, nearly 1,000 professional and amateur cyclists pour into this small town for three days of racing through Somerville and neighboring Bound Brook in front of more than 15,000 spectators.
The featured event is the historic Kugler-Anderson Memorial 50-mile criterium, named after two cyclists who won the first three races in 1940, 1941, and 1942.
After both men lost their lives in World War II, the race was named to honor their memory and sacrifice when it resumed in 1947, following the war.
It’s much more than just the rich history and the deeply embedded love for cycling that brings people back to Somerville year after year – it’s the community.
If watching the cyclists churn through high gears at speeds exceeding 40 mph is not exhilarating enough, the local cafes and entertainment at the race will satisfy nearly every spectator’s delight.
“Food, fun, and families – that’s what makes Memorial Day Weekend in Somerville a very special time,” commented Rick St. Pierre, restaurant owner on Somerville’s Main Street. “There is no place in the country that offers the variety of entertainment options in five days that you will find in Somerville. There is no reason to go anywhere else.”
Michael Malekoff, executive director for the Tour of Somerville, believes it is the American spirit of competition and drive that brings folks back year after year.
“American’s love a good sporting event and we are obsessed with cycling in the region,” states Malekoff. “All of that is important but supporting local businesses and artists too by allowing them to showcase their work in the street fair and marketplace is also a part of the American culture.”
A wide variety of musicians from Jersey and New York turn this event into their annual music festival, attracting entirely different groups of people with one genre of music to the next.
There is truly something for everyone at this race but for the actual residents of the town, this is simply their start of summer’s first block party.
One doesn’t have to be from here to feel like a part of the community. For many people, this is an annual family reunion with lawn picnics lined up all along the race course.
The combination of community, sport, history and holiday is what makes this event unlike any other race in the world – a true American treasure.
Details for the anniversary event weekend are available at www.tourofsomerville.org.