SOMERVILLE, NJ - Had there been more tread on the front tire of Colleen Gulick's bicycle, Laura Van Gelder might not have won her record-setting fifth Tour of Somerville.
Side-by-side, wheel-to-wheel, Van Gelder, 54, won by the narrowest of margins in the Mildred Kugler 25-mile Women's Pro event in a dramatic photo finish, successfully defending the title she won in 2017. She also won the race in 1999, 2002 and 2005.
Van Gelder had a memorable race weekend, having won the Bound Brook Criterium Women's race on Saturday.
The two competitors seemed to hit the finish line simultaneously; race officials had to wait until the finish line photo was processed before they were able to confirm that Van Gelder, a resident of Cresco, Pa., and a longtime crowd favorite in Somerville, had made history with her unprecedented fifth win in the topflight competition, beating 42 other entrants.
Afterwards, Van Gelder, who admitted she was anxious to make history, hesitated to approach the race headquarters at the finish line on West Main Street.
" 'I don't want to go over there,' I said to myself. 'I don't know if I got it,' " she said.
Several thousand spectators jammed the sidewalks in downtown Somerville and on West High Street, where there were dozens of lawn parties and cookouts.
Joining Van Gelder and Gulick - a resident of Spring City Pa. - on the podium was third-place winner Emma Bast of Washington, DC.
"I really wanted this," Van Gelder said. "To get the win in Bound Brook was great, but my major competitors were here in Somerville."
No less dramatic was the sprint to the finish in the Kugler-Anderson Tour of Somerville men's 50-mile race, which saw a surge of more than one dozen cyclists digging in the last hundred yards to the finish line.
Crossing first with a winning time of 1:44 was Shane Kline of Bally, Pa., followed by Cesar Marte of the Dominican Republic. Third-place finisher was Kevin Cougen of Hopedale, Mass. Fourth place finisher was Alex McLaughlin of Louisville, Ky. There were 89 entrants in the main race.
The 1.2-mile race course begins on West Main Street in downtown Somerville; cyclists pedal east and turn left on to North Bridge Street, past the Somerset County Courthouse and county administration offices before turning left on to West High Street. The course continues as cyclists turn left again on to Mountain Avenue for a short distance, before turning left on West Avenue, reconnecting with West Main Street. Traffic is detoured most of the day until the final race concludes late in the afternoon.
Six other races were held for men and women cyclists based on age and experience levels beginning at 10:30 a.m. Races get under way at the conclusion of the borough's Memorial Day Parade.
This was the 75th anniversary of the Kugler-Anderson Tour of Somerville, the oldest cycling race in the United States.