BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (VN) — Everyone knew that Caitlin Van Kooten (Teter) was the strongest rider in the entire Little 500 women’s race, and that the Teter team was one of the strongest teams. So the only question was, when would they attack? The conventional wisdom would be around mid-race at lap 50 — so when they went at lap 15 and simply rode away, everyone knew then the race was over. Sure enough, Teter lapped the field almost twice in taking the decisive victory .
“We thought (attacking early) was a good idea because most teams think early is lap 50,” said Van Kooten, a senior in her final race. “So we thought, ‘Let’s re-educate everyone!’ ”
The team’s coach, Chris Wojtowich, himself a former rider who lapped the field back in the day, knew the team was capable of the feat.
“I always wanted to coach a team that lapped the field,” he said. “This team was so confident I had to trust them — and they almost lapped it twice!”
He said the plan was to attack early, around lap 25, but two crashes in the first 15 laps opened up a tempting window.
“We were going to attack when Caroline Brown (Pi Beta Phi) exchanged,” said Wojtowich. “But then she crashed and we just decided to go right then. We were working with [Delta Gamma] for a little bit but then we got Caitlin out there and the gap just grew and grew. We broke the team pursuit record by 13 seconds so we knew that if we got a gap they could not hold our wheel.”
The keys to winning the Little 500 are part strength, part strategy and part luck — so having some of the top teams crash early only aided Teter.
“Those were great teams that crashed,” said Van Kooten. “And kudos to Pi (Beta) Phi, crashing and coming back to get second!”
Van Kooten, a Bloomington native, grew up watching the Little 500 and knows the history of the race.
“I saw Kappa Delta almost lap the field when I was a senior in high school. I thought, ‘I wanna do that!’ My freshman year I watched a (Teter) team that had the horsepower but lost because of a surprise at the end. This year we had way more horsepower than the other teams and the only way we would lose is if we made it a race of strategy and not horsepower.”
A lot of horsepower indeed. Only Delta Gamma was able to peg the Teter lead early on, holding the gap at a third of a lap. But with the two early crashes blowing the field apart, the top teams were spread all around the track and could not benefit from working together — a necessity in pulling Van Kooten and Teter back. And as the laps wore on the endurance of the Teter team shone through.
“I could see it in their faces that this is not what they planned for,” said Van Kooten. “If you wanna sit in and not be aggressive, don’t look for great things to happen for you in this race.”
- 1. Teter, 100 laps
- 2. Pi Beta Phi, 100
- 3. Delta Gamma, 100
- 4. Army Women, 100
- 5. Wing It Cycling, 100