The New Jersey native, who lives in Cape May, plans to board a plane at Ireland’s Dublin Airport on Monday, fly through several time zones, before landing at Liberty Airport where his parents will drive him directly to the borough for the Memorial Day classic.
“I’ll have just finished up eight days of racing in Ireland the day before,” Granigan said. “It’s a six-hour flight, but I’ll be able to get there on time because of the time change, and that’s going to play into my strategy.”
While racing in Ireland, he’ll be wearing the colors of the CCB Velo Tour team, the same team he will compete with in Somerville. A teammate will accompany him on the flight from Ireland to race the tour.
“My strategy will be to take it easy, see how my legs are feeling,” Granigan said. “Instead of sprinting out to the front, I’ll just try to make things happen, hang back, race more reactively at the start.
“It’s going to be rough, but there’s not a chance I’m going to miss it. I’ve got a lot of family ties in New Jersey. It’s a tradition, to spend Memorial Day racing in Somerville.”
Granigan’s college team at the University of Colorado in Boulder won the National Collegiate Championship earlier this year, with team members placing second, third and seventh; Granigan won the Criterium event.
The 21-year-old left for Ireland on May 18 to compete in the Emerald Isle’s annual Anpostras, a grueling eight-day race over 500 miles in length.
A competitive cyclist since he was 9, and a veteran of professional and amateur racing in the United States and Europe, Granigan is familiar with the Somerville course, competing more than a half dozen times, winning the junior race in 2014.
He was invited to compete in national events as a young teenager, and at the age of 15 raced in Europe for one month in Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
“Almost every year since them I’ve gone back to Europe at some point for a month or so of racing,” Granigan said. He first competed as a member of the Team Somerset Wheelmen, following in the footsteps of his grandparents, Joe Saling and Dottie Saling, both competitive racers.
Granigan expects to graduate in 2019 with a degree in mechanical engineering, and plans to continue racing on the school team.
The national champion said there are distinct differences between racing in Europe and the United States.
“In Europe, it’s a different type of racing,” Granigan said. “The roads are a lot more narrow. It’s hard to stay upfront, so you to have to ride more aggressively.
“In Somerville, you’ve got a large field, wide roads and a bunch of turns, that’s why Somerville comes down to a sprint. In Europe, it’s from point to point, big climbs, crazy turns, not like Somerville where you do a lap every few minutes and you know what’s coming up. In Europe, there’s that unknown factor.”
The race weekend begins with the Bound Brook Criterium on Saturday and the Raritan Criterium on Sunday. Monday’s main events are the women’s and men’s pro races, named after the first two winners, Furman Kugler and Carl Anderson, both of whom were killed in World War II.
Granigan will compete with 150 world-class cycling professionals in the Kugler-Anderson Memorial Men’s Race, which carries a purse of $15,000; the women professionals compete in their race for an equal amount.
Granigan hopes to stop off for a visit in the broadcast booth with his grandfather, Joe Saling, a former top competitor in the Tour of Somerville himself and “Voice” of the Tour of Somerville for the past 35 years.
The signature race will be seen around the world in real time online, including on YouTube and Twitch.
Saling, who has spent more than 50 years involved at some level in competitive cycling, is one of the most decorated cyclists in the U.S. with more than 20 national titles. His wife Dottie also competed, won state and national titles; including serving as a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee. Saling’s two daughters also competed in bike racing, including his son-in-law and other grandsons.
Furman’s father, Pop Kugler, owned a bicycle shop in Somerville for many years and wanted to bring bike racing to the town. Pop eventually sold his bike shop to Saling, who continued the bike racing tradition in Somerville.