Bloomington, IN: IU Little 500

"The World's Greatest College Weekend", also known as the Little 500 Bicycle Race, was this past weekend and we headed to Bill Armstrong Stadium to check it out.

Tickets are $25 each (plus a small service fee if you buy them on campus, or a much larger service fee if you buy them through Ticketmaster), and are good for entry into both the women's race on Friday and the men's race on Saturday.

The women's race is 100 laps (about 25 miles) and the men's is 200 laps (about 50 miles). Lap counters for each team try to keep track of their riders along one end of the stadium. There are all kinds of qualifying stipulations to get into the race, and lots of events that need to be completed leading up to it, like time trials, sprints, and a practice race.

Little 500 was modeled after the Indy 500 and has some of the same traditions. During the National Anthem for each race, parachuters fall from the sky with the United States flag. (Two other guys come down as well.) It was pretty cool.

Balloons are also released into the air after the anthem, Back Home Again in Indiana, and the IU Fight Song are sung. I like balloons and got a little carried away with the photos.

We sat in front of the press box for both races (about halfway up for the women's race, and in the first row for the men's), which was right in front of the start/finish line. It was a nice view and we weren't within any Greek housing blocks, which looked a little understandably intense right in front of the pits (this race is a big deal). The riders are led out by an official Indy 500 pace car.

Both races have 33 teams that qualify to race, with one rider riding at any given time. The rest of the team (up to 3 more people) are in the pits staying loose and ready for an exchange, which is one of the most nerve-wracking things to watch in the race. One rider will literally exchange places with the next one, either by handing off the bike or tagging the next person who is ready to hop on a new bike. When done correctly, it is one of the coolest things in the race. When done incorrectly, it results in crashes and penalties and lost time.

Dave Blase, below, the inspiration for the movie Breaking Away, comes back to the men's race each year to send off the riders.

The trophies for this race are enormous (I told you it was a big deal).

Black Key Bulls, an independent cycling team on campus, won the 64th annual men's race. Kappa Alpha Theta sorority won the 27th annual women's, but we had to leave before the awards ceremony for them to get to dinner with my dad so there's no photo.

The end of the men's race should have been really exciting -- seven teams were in contention on lap 199. Then, of course, one of the riders slipped on the cinder track as he started to sprint and took down almost everyone else in the pack. Black Key Bulls barely escaped the pile up and won easily.

It's not called the World's Greatest College Weekend for nothing. Little 5 is the culmination of a week of crazy on campus, with all kinds of events (concerts, parties, the Little 50 track race). I was lucky enough to experience Little 5 at DePauw (we have a bike race modeled after IU's that just as insane) so we don't feel any need to venture out into the insanity. The bike race itself is a really fun event to attend (both women's and men's) and hopefully we'll get some great finishes over the next couple of years.
Bloomington, IN: IU Little 500 Bloomington, IN: IU Little 500 Reviewed by Maria on 3:00:00 PM Rating: 5

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