BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (VN) — The Indiana University Little 500, the race made famous by the Academy Award-winning film “Breaking Away,” is once again set to run this weekend — with the 61st edition of the men’s race and the women in their 24th year. The theme for this year’s races is repeat, with the independent team the Cutters looking for their record fifth-straight win and the women’s residence hall team Teter racing for two-in-a-row.
Both the Cutters and Teter will likely be following similar race strategies, as each has the strongest single rider on the track in Eric Young and Caitlin Van Kooten, respectively. Each won the individual time trial and ‘miss-n-out’ events of the spring pre-race series.
Although there are other teams with more depth or overall strength across the four members, all the Cutters and Teter need to do is ride smart, avoid the inevitable crashes and get their teams to the final laps with the lead group. From there both Young and Van Kooten will take over and do what each did two weeks ago at the ‘miss-n-out’ race — simply drop the hammer on the back stretch and ride away from the competition.
All of the teams know this is the likely outcome, so the best and maybe only way to beat the favorites is to make alliances with other teams and take turns attacking during the race. Yet history does not even favor this strategy as the Cutters were down multiple times in 2009, including a late-race penalty forcing them to stop for three seconds in the final 20 laps. The team members rode themselves back into the race and Young took over in the finale.
Given this, the Cutters’ coach Jason Fowler says the team will be aggressive throughout the race. “We are certainly going to look for opportunities — if there are only a handle of teams with us we will be aggressive. The weather will dictate of course; if there are crazy winds like 2008 or rain. If it’s a big pack then we’ll put Eric on there (to finish.)”
“Each year we don’t talk about winning; we talk about doing your max effort,” Fowler said. “You train all year so there is no sense in not giving it your all. It could be bad luck and that means chasing or good luck and winning.”
The men’s race has the usual strong teams that, if they work together, could unseat the Cutters. Sigma Nu qualified a half-second ahead of the Cutters but did not have a good spring series. Sigma Chi is the other team on the first row after the Cutters and bested them in the team pursuit, making it to the final. Delta Tau Delta also has a strong overall team and Phi Gamma Delta has strong individual riders, but suffered a horrendous qualification and starts at the back in 32nd place.
In the women’s race, top-qualifier Delta Gamma appears to be the biggest challenge to Teter, with the DGs taking the pole by nearly three seconds. However, Teter plastered the DGs in the team pursuit, by fifteen seconds in prelims and ten seconds in the final.
The spring weather has been wonderful for the past few weeks — but like last year the weekend forecast is not pretty, with rain showers and temperatures in the 50s. But that has never detered the thousands of ‘well-lubricated’ college students from coming out to support their favorite teams.