Tour of Somerville History
A Tradition in Bicycle Racing Since 1940!
When professional bike racer and bike shop owner, Fred Kugler, now universally known as “Pop,” decided to promote a bike race in his small New Jersey hometown of Somerville, he encountered one problem. New Jersey state law prohibited racing on highways for prizes, and Somerville’s Main Street doubles as State Highway 28. To bypass this legislation, Kugler then decided to name the race a “tour,” and the 50-mile Tour of Somerville was born in May of 1940.
Kugler’s son Furman, a past National Cycling champion and one of the country’s most promising cyclists, won the inaugural Tour of Somerville in 1940 and repeated his victory in 1941. Carl Anderson, a friend of the Kuglers’ won the Tour in 1942. World War II suspended the Tour from 1943-1946 and its Memorial Day date took on a sad irony when Kugler and Anderson were both killed while serving with the Armed Forces overseas. Resuming in 1947, the Senior Men’s race of the Tour of Somerville was officially renamed the Kugler-Anderson Memorial, in honor of the two past winners who gave their lives for their country.
The perpetual tour trophy, “The Cromwell Cup,” was donated back in 1940 by the Canadian government. James Cromwell, US minister to Canada, was Doris Duke’s husband.
Every conceivable item has been awarded as prizes (along with the coveted trophy). Household furniture, appliances, carpeting and even a new Chevrolet in 1953 have been given to winners.
Somerville is also recognized as the birthplace for the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame and the Tour of Somerville is the only bike race to be inducted in the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame.
The Tour of Somerville 50-mile record is held by Steve Bauer of Ridgeville, Canada. His time of 1 hour, 44 minutes, 45 seconds was set in 1983. Compare this to the record set in 1960 by Mike Hiltner of Palisades, California in 2 hours, 2 minutes.
In 1955, Patrick Murphy, a 21-year-old bridegroom from Ontario, Canada, took time off from a honeymoon tour of the states to win the Tour and set a new record of 2 hours, 2 minutes.
There have been 10 men and 8 women who have won the Tour of Somerville multiple times. The record is 5 wins in the men’s race by Jonas Carney and 5 wins in the women’s race by Laura Van Gilder.
Sports Illustrated ran a feature article on the Tour of Somerville on May 26, 1980.
MEMORIAL DAY: Remembering the Fallen
While the Tour of Somerville is a celebration of cycling, we never forget the significance of Memorial Day. Honoring our American heroes is an important part of the Tour.
When Pop Kugler first held the race, his son Furman, a past National Cycling champion and one of the country’s most promising cyclists, won the inaugural Tour of Somerville in 1940 and repeated his victory in 1941. Carl Anderson, a friend of the Kuglers’, won the Tour in 1942. World War II suspended the Tour from 1943-1946, and its Memorial Day date took on a special resonance when Kugler and Anderson were both killed while serving with the Armed Forces overseas. Resumed in 1947, the Senior Men’s race of the Tour of Somerville was officially renamed the Kugler-Anderson Memorial, in honor of the two past winners who gave their lives for their country.
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. Over two dozen cities and towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day.
Regardless of the exact date or location of its origins, one thing is clear – Memorial Day was born out of the Civil War and a desire to honor our dead. It was officially proclaimed on May 5 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.
On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.
The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war).
It is now observed in almost every state on the last Monday in May with Congressional passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 – 363). This helped ensure a three-day weekend for Federal holidays, though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19th in Texas; April 26th in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10th in South Carolina; and June 3rd (Jefferson Davis’ birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.
(Information on Memorial Day courtesy of USMemorialDay.org)