Brian Moroney of Ellicott City captured cycling's prestigious Tour of Somerville -- the oldest bike race in the U.S. -- on Memorial Day, by sprinting to the lead in the last 100 yards and edging out the second-place finisher by a bike length.

The Tour of Somerville runs on the same 50-mile course each year, encircling three city blocks in Somerville, N.J., home of the National Cycling Hall of Fame.


Of the field of 194 top-ranked international amateur riders, morethan half would drop out during the race, which was marked with 90-degree temperatures and a midrace thunderstorm.

Moroney, 20, who passed the finish line with a winning time of 1 hour, 48 minutes and 55seconds, speculated that the rains made the majority of the riders cautious for the duration of the storm.


For winning the Tour of Somerville, Moroney took home $1,055 in cash and the ceremonial wristwatch that goes to the victor.

Moroney, a 1989 graduate of CentennialHigh School, is ranked "2," or a national rider, in the U.S. CyclingFederation's four-point ranking system where "1" means an international rider and "4" indicates a novice.

"I could easily be a 1, but in this area it's smart to be a 2 because there aren't many Category 1 races on the East Coast," he said.

Following his win at Somerville last week, the Gatorade Racing Team offered Moroney a three-month contract. The team is planning to race in Belgium, France, Spain and Holland this summer.

Just five years ago, the Dobbin Bike Series in Columbia marked Moroney's first cycling tournament. He won three ofthe series' five races that year.

With his victory at Somerville,Moroney faces the possibility of turning professional. He believes that the decision will come after two or three more years as an amateur.

"I need more experience and more victories to be a pro. I also have to be scouted," he said.

Education remains a top priority forMoroney, however.


He turned down a seven-month racing contract because it would conflict with his classes this fall at Catonsville Community College, where he is a marketing major. He hopes to transfer to the University of Baltimore by next year to finish his degree.

"I've had the offers to get out of school and start a cycling way of life, but school is pretty important," he said.

Moroney, who races for the Velo Club of Baltimore, uses the roads in Howard, Baltimore and Montgomery counties as training grounds for his races.

The pathto Moroney's victory Monday started with 2 1/2 laps remaining in therace as a group of three riders broke from the pack to take the lead.

Just before the final lap, Moroney estimated that the pack wouldnot catch the leaders, so he also broke away to run down the group. In the second-to-last turn of the race, he caught the group -- now whittled down to two riders -- and would shortly sprint past them for the title before an estimated crowd of 35,000.

In Moroney's analysis he felt that the two cyclists were more concerned about each other than about him.


"They thought I was too tired to sprint. I think they believed I didn't have it in me, but I have two great abilities, time trials and sprints," he said.

Three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond also has won the Tour of Somerville.