April 12, 2008
There's a lot to look forward to in the beginning of April. You have the Masters "Toonament", the start of baseball season, and the NCAA Men's Basketball championship. But there are few sporting events bring the excitement of the Indiana University Little 500 Bicycle race. The 58th running is shaping up to another exciting edition, with treacherous weather and an unorthodox start order the hot topics of discussion in the days leading up.
The favorites this year include a healthy mix of the usual GDI powerhouses and traditionally strong fraternities. Here is a look at the Young Contador's Power 10, with odds:
1. Black Key Bulls
BKB is led by this year's top rider, Isaac Neff. Neff and your's truly once came together as IU cycling teammates when we toyed with the field one Saturday afternoon at a Midwest Collegiate Cycling Conference road race. Our careers have gone in the complete opposite direction since that historic day: one crashing out the race and retiring a year later, the other winning ITT's and leading IU at Nationals. The '08 BKB squad is shaping up very similarly to the '06 DU team: one with three very strong riders supporting one alpha-male sprinter. If BKB's supporting cast can deliver Neff to the finish with less than 60 laps on his legs, they'll be the odds-on favorite to hoist the Borg Warner Trophy.
The defending champions will return the yellow jersey to the field, after the race went without a defending champ in '07 when ATO failed to qualify. They've lost star sprinter Alex Bishop to the domestic pro ranks, but Sasha Land will lead his band of stone cutting townies as an experienced three year veteran. It also doesn't hurt that he is about 28 years old. As always, they'll figure prominently into the overall race turnout.
3. Phi Psi
Six time champion Phi Psi looks strong again and will be in the mix for a podium spot. Despite loosing two top riders from last year from their'06 campaign, the boys in red and green finally lived up to their potential, setting the pace and duking it out until the end and placed 2nd. Though they lack the depth and sprint power of the previous two years, they'll likely stick on the lead lap late into the afternoon, and with a little luck, have a very good chance of getting to the podium.
4. Dodds House
"Dude-on-Dude" will come into the race playing the underdog role, as they're not as strong as in years past. That said, they'll still be disappointed with anything less than a podium finish. They'll be led by standout and future pro Mike Sherer, but can he can get the job done in crunch time? With usually reliable Dan Houchens' ability headed south with too much time in the library, it remains to be scene whether or not "The House" can deliver the knock-out punch necessary to close the deal. Bottom line: they'll be on the lead lap at the end.
The GDB pick to click and beloved favorite of Young Cicero, Por'que and Knuckleballer. After taking the Dixie Heighway award last year with a Herculean effort from their departed captain, the team is now led by triathlete star rider Dave Richardson-Rossbach and financial mastermind Kyle Murphy. Murphy (pictured at right) missed the '07 edition, instead opting to take a hiatus to train in the Swiss Alps with two-time world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara. He's back with a vengeance this year and has the legs to go the distance. Look for him to lead the team in face time. The group is rounded out by campus socialite and all-rounder Pete Stevens and sprint specialist Steve Tratar. As always, the boys from east 3rd will stay in it with the best exchanges of any team in the race.
6. Team Major Taylor:
Known more for the drama created by their divisive financier and coach, Courtney Bishop, TMT will again hope for a strong performance from Ali Camara, who will need to carry them. TMT began as an exclusively African-American group, but now boasts the most diverse team on the track with each rider hailing from a different heritage. Exchanges are always an issue for Camara – he looks like Steve Urkel when he tries to get on the bike. Fortunately one he gets up to speed, he rides like Stephan Urkelle. Nevertheless, their race tactics and coaching savvy are enough to put them in the hunt for a top 5 finish.
AKAK is back – well, in the top 10 at least. After losing their top 2 riders to mono and medical school preparation, this three-time champion hopes to get the program back on track with a top ten finish. Look for Ahlberg and Mohammed to eat up lots of laps, and for the man they call "hot Carl" to sprint at the end.
As a seven time champion, FIJI is certainly not lacking in tradition. What they are lacking however is the standout star sprinter they've had in recent years past. Despite a lacking a true track star, their mysterious training methods and infinite budget provide all the means necessary to be a top five contender. Though not really in the mix for the title, FIJI will have the biggest and loudest crowd, and probably a top 5 finish when all is said and done.
9. Phi Delta Theta
PDT is back in the mix with a revived fraternity program that's making some noise. They're top rider placed second in ITT's and will have to carry them come race day. With only two riders with any experience, they'll be in the mix for a top 10, but likely out of the hunt for a podium spot.
10. Sigma Alpha Mu
Sammies have been making some noise for a few years now and are beginning to gain the respect of the Little 5 community, especially when they took the pole position. That shouldn't suprise you too much though - Drew Kushnick took a pole head-on and lost in the '06 edition, when he collided with the traffic light on the inside of turn 1. If they can avoid the light poles in the turns, they should good to stick around for a top 10 finish.
*Very special thanks to Young Contador for this very special guest submission to GDB. See you on race day!