SOMERVILLE, NJ – As bicycle racers from around the world lean into the West End Avenue turn during this year’s 73rd Tour of Somerville on Memorial Day, few will realize that across the street sits a monument to the historic beginnings of this iconic event.
Some competitors might risk sneaking a glance at the actual bicycle, now enshrined in plexiglass and cement, that hometown hero Furman Kugler rode to win the first Tour of Somerville in 1940 and again in 1941.
The fixed gear, steel frame-wooden wheel classic, with no brakes, is fittingly stationed along the 1.2 mile downtown course that riders in five individual races will navigate hundreds of times while competing in Americas’ oldest major cycling event.
The final race, the 50-mile Kugler-Anderson Memorial, is named after Kugler and 1942 winner Carl Anderson, both of whom lost their lives during World War II. The race will attract more than 150 elite cyclists from places as far away as Argentina and Australia and include last year’s winner, Andrew Dahlheim of Greenville, So.Carolina.
Prior to the 3 p.m start of the feature race, a number of preliminary races for USA Cycling licensed riders will be held beginning at 11:30 am, including the 25-mile Mildred Kugler Women’s classic that will see some of the best female cyclists in the nation competing for $10,000 in cash prizes, the same amount of money that the men will ride for.
New to this year’s Tour will be the Kid’s Main Street Sprints, where youngsters ages three to12 will race down Main Street at distances of 15-200 yards, with cyclists grouped by age. Somerset Patriots mascot “Sparkee” will be on hand to award ribbons to all those participants.
Throughout the day a crowd of 10,000 is expected to be on hand to cheer the cyclists as they circle the tree-lined streets of Somerville. Musicians, food vendors, educational exhibitors, sponsors and lawn parties will be located throughout the walkable race route, with the start/finish line located on Main Street at the County Courthouse Green.
Tour of Somerville weekend activities begin the day before, May 29, with preliminary races in neighboring Bound Brook at 1 p.m. with the start-finish/line on Cherry Street.
All events are promoted by Arts on Division. a Somerset County-based resource that encourages all aspects of culture and the arts. Arts on Division will donate a portion of Tour proceeds to “Jack’s Kids,” a nonprofit organization supporting families of children with serious illnesses.