SOMERVILLE, NJ –As they have for 76 years, thousands of spectators will gather this Memorial Day to cheer elite cyclists as they circle the streets of Somerville in America’s oldest bicycle race.
For the bike racers it’s all hard work. But for those attending the free event which Sports Illustrated once dubbed “the greatest bargain in sport,” it’s much more.
Throughout the day musicians, educational and athletic exhibits, street performers, a Kid’s Sports and Entertainment Zone, lawn parties and Somerville’s many restaurants and bistros will be located along the walkable 1.2-mile race route, with the start/finish line located on Main Street near the corner of Davenport.
The Tour of Somerville kicks off at 9:45 a.m. with a two-lap Family Fun Ride on the historic race course. The ride is open to all local residents and there is a nominal fee which supports the Somerville Recreation Department.
“Along with the novelty of watching top cyclists racing elbow-to-elbow at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, there’s a lot of activity planned to keep even the casual spectator entertained and busy,” says Mike Malekoff, the event’s executive director.
The Kid’s Sports and Entertainment Zone will take place across from the County Court House complex at Main and Bridge streets from noon to 4 p.m. Featured sports demonstrations will include martial arts, gymnastics, cheerleading, basketball games and spin classes. Kids will enjoy street performers, arts and crafts, kids’ face painters and the Atlantic Health ambulance and health exhibits. Two blocks way at the Division Street pedestrian mall, musical groups will play throughout the day.
Prior to Monday’s events, preliminary bike races will be ongoing throughout the Memorial Day weekend. On Saturday, a series of multi-lap, closed course races will be held in Bound Brook starting at 9 a.m. at Main and Hamilton streets near the train station. On Sunday evening, the spotlight shifts to Somerville’s Main Street where some of the best track cyclists in the region will compete in elimination heats, quarter mile sprints starting at 6 p.m. Both Bound Brook and
Somerville has been designated to host the state Criterium Championships for junior and senior competitors.
On Monday, at 10:30 a.m., the spotlight focuses on Somerville for the 76th Tour of Somerville. Known to generations as the “Kentucky Derby of Cycling,” the featured events of eight USA Cycling sanctioned races through the streets of town will be the 25-mile women’s race starting at 3 p.m. and the 50-mile Kugler-Anderson Memorial men’s race at 4 p.m. Elite cyclists from throughout the U.S., Canada, South America, Russia and Australia will be vying for $10,000 in prize money for both the men’s and women’s races.
Last year’s women’s race winner Laura Van Gilder will return with the goal of notching an unprecedented sixth Tour of Somerville title. In the men’s race, Olympic team hopeful Shane Kline aims at using his track sprinting skills to capture back-to-back wins.
For a complete schedule of the weekend’s events and times, visit tourofsomerville.org.