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Tour of Somerville Scheduled for Memorial Day in Somerville

When hometown hero Furman Kugler crossed the finish line in 1940 ahead of Johnny Webber of Milwaukee to win the first Tour of Somerville bicycle race before a crowd of 20,000, Mayor Freas Hess told a reporter, “Maybe we should do this again next year.”

They did, and with the exception of the World War II and a two-year pandemic hiatus, America’s oldest competitive cycling event will be held again for the 77th time this Memorial Day, May 30.

Pro and elite cyclists from California, Canada, Puerto Rico and New Zealand have entered the two featured events, the 25-mile women’s race at 2 p.m., and the 50-mile men’s “Kugler-Anderson Memorial” starting at 3:15 p.m.

They’ll be vying for $10,000 in prize money as they negotiate the 43-lap, downtown circuit at speeds of up to 40 mph. Thousands of spectators are expected to line the four-turn course, with the start finish line at the corner of Main and Union streets for what Sports Illustrated once called “the best spectator bargain in sports.” Admission is free.

The day’s races are promoted by Arts on Division and sponsored by Unity Bank, as well as Atlantic Health, Flemington Car and Truck Company, Somerset County, the Borough of Somerville and the Downtown Somerville Alliance.

Much has changed in the eight decades since Furman Kugler beat 136 riders to the line on a fixed-gear bike to win the first race in 2 hours and 5 minutes. Kugler and 1942 winner Carl Anderson gave their lives while serving their country during World War II. The downtown multi-lap course has changed six times. The first women’s race was added during the 1950s. And, prize money has replaced trophies and merchandise once awarded to winners.

Connor Sallee of Sudbury, Connecticut won the 2019 edition of the Tour in 1 hour 38 minutes, the last time the race was held prior to being postponed for two years due to the pandemic.

That year’s women’s race winner was Maggie Coles-Lyster of Vancouver BC, Canada.

Race promoters are expecting both to return to defend their titles.

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