SOMERVILLE, NJ – National Collegiate Cycling Champion Noah Granigan’s transatlantic journey to participate in the 74th annual Tour of Somerville senior men’s bike race will add yet another rich chapter to the extraordinary history of what has been described as the Kentucky Derby of Competitive Cycling.
For Granigan, the grueling marathon begins early on Memorial Day, May 29, when he will board a plane at Ireland’s Dublin Airport, fly west six hours across the Atlantic Ocean through several time zones, land at Newark Airport, pick up his luggage and bike, meet his parents and drive straight to Somerville where he’ll get re-acquainted with his teammates, slip into his racing gear, re-assemble the bike, crowd into the staging area and answer the starter’s call.
While racing in Ireland, he’ll be wearing the colors of the CCB Velo Tour team. He’ll also race with CCB in Somerville. A teammate will accompany him on the flight from Ireland to race in Somerville.
Granigan also expects there will be time to stop off for a quick visit in the broadcast booth with his grandfather, Joe Saling, a former top competitor in the Tour of Somerville himself and “Voice” of the Tour of Somerville for the past 35 years.
Saling, who has spent more than 50 years involved at some level in competitive cycling, is one of the most decorated cyclists in the U.S. with more than 20 national titles. His wife Dottie also competed, won state and national titles; including serving as a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee. Saling’s two daughters also competed in bike racing, including his son-in-law and other grandsons.
This year’s Tour of Somerville Cycling Series presented by Unity Bank has expanded to include three days of racing - the Bound Brook Criterium on Saturday, May 27 and the Raritan Criterium on Sunday, May 28.
Monday, May 29 is the Tour of Somerville, with a variety of races for men, women and juniors leading up to the pro women’s race and the pro men’s race, the Kugler-Anderson Memorial, which honors the first two winners, Furman Kugler and Carl Anderson, both of whom were killed in World War II.
Furman’s father, Pop Kugler, owned a bicycle shop in Somerville for many years and wanted to bring bike racing to the town. Pop eventually sold his bike shop to Saling, continuing the bike racing tradition in Somerville.
Granigan will compete with 150 world-class cycling professionals in the Kugler-Anderson Memorial Men’s Race, which carries a purse of $15,000; the women professionals compete in their race for an equal amount.
Tens of thousands of people from all over the nation and the world converge on the tree-lined streets of Somerville on Memorial Day to cheer the cyclists as they speed up to 40 mph past Victorian-era homes and Main Street storefronts.
Sponsored by Unity Bank, the Memorial Day race classic, now in its 74th year, will be broadcast around the world. Footage from the previous two days of racing in Bound Brook and Raritan events will be included in the Memorial Day broadcast.
The signature race will be seen around the world in real time on several platforms, including YouTube and Twitch.
Additional race day coverage, including interviews with competitors, spectators and race organizers and features on the front-yard and curbside parties along the race route will be included in the stream.
The broadcast will also feature footage from the Somerville Memorial Day Parade, which precedes the race activities, ending with ceremonies at the historic “New Cemetery” on South Bridge Street, which is commemorating 150 years of compassionate service in 2017. More than 2,000 veterans from as far back as the Civil War are buried at the New Cemetery.
Granigan, a student at the University of Colorado/Boulder, expects to make up enough time flying “backwards” through the time zones to get to the race on time.
Granigan, 21, a New Jersey native and resident of Cape May Courthouse, left for Ireland May 18 to compete in the Emerald Isle’s annual Anpostras, a grueling eight-day race in excess of 500 miles that begins on the west coast of the island nation, traverses the countryside, heads into Northern Ireland and then heads south towards Dublin before finishing up on the east coast.
A competitive cyclist since he was 9 year-old, and a veteran of professional and amateur racing in the United States and Europe, Granigan is familiar with the Somerville course, competing more than a half dozen times, winning the Junior race in 2014.
He was invited to compete in national events as a young teenager, and at the age of 15 raced in Europe for one month in Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland..
“Almost every year since them I’ve gone back to Europe at some point for a month or so of racing,” Granigan said. He first competed as a member of the Team Somerset Wheelmen, following in the footsteps of his grandparents.
Granigan expects to graduate UC/Boulder in 2019 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and plans to continue racing on the school team.
UC/Boulder won the National Collegiate Championship earlier this year, with team members placing second, third and seventh; Granigan won the Criterium event.
The national champion said there are distinct differences between racing in Europe and the USA.
“In Europe, It’s a different type of racing, the roads are a lot more narrow, it’s hard to stay upfront, so you to have to ride more aggressively,” Granigan explained, as opposed to the wide roads that characterize the Somerville course.
Racing on a flat course like Somerville is predictable, as opposed to the unknown on so many of the European over-the-road courses, according to Granigan.
“In Somerville, you’ve got a large field, wide roads and a bunch of turns, that’s why Somerville comes down to a sprint; in Europe, it’s from point to point, big climbs, crazy turns, not like Somerville where you do a lap every few minutes and you know what’s coming up; in Europe, there’s that unknown factor,” he explained.
His strategy for the Tour of Somerville?
“I’ll have just finished up eight days of racing in Ireland the day before,” Granigan said. “It’s a six-hour flight but I’ll be able to get there on time because of the time change, and that’s going to play into my strategy,” he added.
In short, he’ll be tired.
“My strategy will be to take it easy, see how my legs are feeling; instead of sprinting out to the front, I’ll just try to make things happen, hang back, race more reactively at the start,” he said.
“It’s going to be rough, but there’s not a chance I’m going to miss it,” Granigan added. “I’ve got a lot of family ties in New Jersey. It’s a tradition, to spend Memorial Day racing in Somerville.”
The race weekend schedule begins Thursday evening, May 25 with The Legal Runaround, a 5K walk-run event in downtown Somerville.
The Tour of Somerville Cycling Series is a community event: a series of bike races, a festival and a giant family reunion rolled into one, honoring American heroes on Memorial Day.
There will be live entertainment on Division Street with an interactive bicycle sculpture, an exhibition area in front of the Somerville Court house, and the Unity Bank kids’ zone on Mountain Avenue with entertainment, games, face painting and other activities.
“This is a fantastic countywide celebration with these three neighboring communities coming together to honor Memorial Day,” said Mayor Brian Gallagher of Somerville.
This event is free and made possible through the support of individuals and companies. Race sponsors will be represented throughout the live stream. To become a sponsor and be part of the live stream broadcast, access the website online at tourofsomerville.org/live-stream.html
For race weekend details, visit www.tourofsomerville.org.