Downtown Somerville once again echoed with the roar of the peloton and the cheers of cycling fans this Memorial Day, as America’s longest bike race returned after coronavirus cancellations in 2020 and 2021.
The annual Somerville Tour was back for the first time since 2019 on Monday, when around 3,000 spectators turned out for the 77th running of the event, which started in 1940 and is dubbed ‘The Kentucky Derby of Cycling’ for its importance as a major bicycle race in the United States in the mid-twentieth century.
Organizers postponed the 2021 event from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but the race was again wiped out by Hurricane Ida.
On Monday, competitive enthusiasts and professional cyclists from New Jersey, New Zealand and many places in between took part in a full day of racing, with dozens of riders both pedaling to the four corners and straight away d a 1.1 mile loop past Main Street. shops and restaurants, the historic Somerset County Courthouse and other sites in downtown Somerville.
Monday’s high of 88 degrees was warmer than ideal for competitors, but fans young and old enjoyed ice creams and drinks at cafe tables and on lawns. The brightly dressed runners streaking along Main, West High and North Bridge streets and Mountain Avenue under sunny blue skies created a high-octane atmosphere accentuated by the two-year absence of the beloved tradition.
“Everyone is super happy with it, thanking us for getting it back,” said Tom Mains, one of the race organizers. “All restaurants, with full outdoor seating. People all over Main Street along the fence. So it’s good.”
Somerville is a cycling town. In addition to hosting the tour, the borough was the original home of the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame which was founded in 1987 and remained in the borough until moving to Davis, California in 2009.
Unlike cycling’s most famous ‘tour’ – the annual three-week race of over 2,000 miles around France in July – the Tour de Somerville is actually a day of so-called criterium races, which consist of multiple laps around a loop course – trapezoidal, in the case of Somerville.
There are a dozen separate competitions, restricted by gender, age and skill level, or category. “Cat 1” is the highest and includes amateurs and elite professionals.
The day was capped off with a 22-lap or 25-mile race by the top women at 2 p.m., followed by a men’s 50-mile race, each with $10,000 in prizes. Mains said the 56 women and 100 men in the two races came from all over the country and from foreign countries, including Canada, Colombia and New Zealand.
Results for all races are posted online at my.raceresult.com
The winner of the women’s main event was Katia Martinez of Mexico, who won in what is called a bunch sprint, when nearly all the riders finish together. The men’s winner was New Zealand’s George Jackson, who barely beat eight other riders in a breakaway group that finished well ahead of the peloton.
“Both were great finishes,” Mains said.
Photographer Amanda Brown contributed to this article.
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Steve Strunsky can be reached at [email protected]