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76th Annual Tour of Somerville

By Taylor Smith 

On May 27, more than 500 professional and amateur cyclists will gather to compete in the 76th Annual Tour of Somerville at Davenport and Main streets in Somerville, N.J. Held rain or shine, the historic event is the oldest bike race in the country. Over 50 U.S. Cycling Hall of Fame inductees have participated in the race, along with Tour de France champion Greg LeMond. 

The morning begins with junior men’s and women’s races, followed by a variety of amateur races for seniors and masters. The headlining races take place in the afternoon with the professional men’s and women’s events. The Mildred Kugler 25-mile women’s race starts at 3 p.m., and will feature Laura Van Gilder seeking her third straight women’s title. The Kugler-Anderson 50-mile men’s race starts at 4:05 p.m., with top professional men cyclists competing. 

The Tour of Somerville began in May of 1940 as a dream of professional bike racer and shop owner Fred Kugler. Known as “Pop” to the locals, Kugler was a lifelong Somerville resident. In an effort to draw attention to his small New Jersey hometown, Kugler sought to bypass the state law prohibiting racing on highways for prizes by referring to the event as a “tour.” Kugler’s son Furman was a past National Cycling champion, and won the inaugural Tour of Somerville in 1940. Carl Anderson, a friend of the Kuglers, won the Tour in 1942. The outbreak of World War II suspended the Tour from 1943-1946. Sadly, Kugler and Anderson were killed while serving with the Armed Forces overseas. The race resumed in 1947 and the senior men’s race was officially renamed the Kugler-Anderson Memorial. 

Historically, there have been 10 men and eight women who have won the Tour of Somerville multiple times. The record is five wins in the men’s race by Jonas Carney and five wins in the women’s race by Laura Van Gilder. 

The Tour of Somerville 50-mile record is held by Steve Bauer of Ridgeville, Canada. His time of 1 hour, 44 minutes, and 45 seconds was set in 1983 and still stands today. 

A Memorial Day Parade will precede the race-day events at 9 a.m. The parade begins in front of the Somerset County Courthouse and includes military veterans, local school bands, organizations, police, fire and emergency groups, plus an assortment of military vehicles. The parade will finish with a special ceremony at Somerville’s New Cemetery. 

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