Wheels into Somerville, N.J. pretty much as it does in small towns across the land, with a gusto lost to big cities. Rags wave, bands play, Boy Scouts march and the fire engine gleams, a hearty endorsement of patriotism and the start of summer. But there is a difference. What will attract thousands of people to this pleasant county seat, 35 miles west of New York City, is an afternoon of bicycle races called the Tour of Somerville. There are races for boys of all ages and a 15-miler for women (right), but the focus of the day is perhaps the country's premier bike race, the 50-mile event for men. About 175 of the best riders from the U.S. and half a dozen other countries line up across Main Street, curb to curb and five rows deep. Then, at the gun, they're off—east on Main, left on Bridge, west on High, left on Mountain and back to Main—43½ laps of Somerville before one of them throws his arms into the air and Memorial Day is over for another year.
Finishing tall, Canada's Karen Strong (above) takes the 1979 women's race. Starting small, last year's midgets and their handlers stand poised, waiting for the gun.
David Lettieri (above, right) gets a hand after winning the intermediate race. At far left, Swiss riders await the start; center, the pack guts it out in the main event; and, below, a kid curbs his woe.
Just tourin' in the rain, a Mexican rider splashes gamely along slippery streets.
WALTER IOOSS JR.