25 May 2019

Olympic Cyclists Summer in South Branch, 1972

In recent years, Hillsborough's weekend motorists have become used to navigating around bicyclists on the backroads of the "boro", but back in the summer of '72 cyclists had the upper hand. It was in July and August of that year that the US Olympic Cycling Team made their home base at the South Branch Hotel on River Road.

15 July 1972 Courier News
Coming out of the Olympic Trials at Lake Luzerne, NY in early July, coach Ernie Seubert took the top twelve road racers with him back to his native New Jersey, where they could train over the sleepy backroads of Hillsborough Township - and compete for the final eight spots that would comprise the Olympic team. 

The South Branch Hotel, photo circa 1970
The sprawling 19th-century mansion that became their home for four weeks that summer was once the summer residence of the flamboyant Diamond Jim Brady and was lately owned by Mr. and Mrs. David Weiss. The hotel catered mostly to Jewish youth groups for summer retreats and the like. 

27 July 1972 Courier News
A typical workout that summer consisted of a 50 or 60-mile ride before breakfast, then another three or four-hour session in the afternoon. The sleepy back roads of Somerset County were specifically chosen because, according to Coach Seubert, "There are no outside distractions here." To stay sharp, the team competed in a 50-mile race in Nutley and made a trip out to Milwaukee for the National Championship. The standouts that summer were future bicycling Hall-of-Famers John Howard and Ron Skarin. Howard had already competed in the 1968 Olympic Games, and he and Skarin would each go on to be members of the cycling teams in Munich in 1972 and Montreal in 1976.

28 May 1974 Courier News
Skarin returned to the area less than a year later to win the first of his two consecutive titles at the Tour Of Somerville. No word on whether or not he stayed at the South Branch Hotel!

27 May 1974 Home News

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