Another exciting Little 500 came and went this weekend, with Cutters taking the checkered flag in a 10 lap breakaway from the main field. Making their move near lap 189, the team held strong and maintained a ½ lap lead over contenders TMT, Dodd’s House, ATO and Phi Psi with senior rider Sasha Land bringing home the victory.
Weather in the mid 40’s with light rain was tough on attendance, but riders fought hard nonetheless and the beginning few laps went off without a hitch. It wasn’t until somewhere around the 15th lap that the race saw its first yellow flag, as one rider was carried off on a paramedic board as a precaution. Things remained docile until close to lap 60, when pre-race favorite Black Key Bulls suffered a mechanical issue, struggling with to get the correct chain tension. Unfortunately there are no free laps in this one-of-a-kind relay event and the mechanical mistake proved disastrous for their overall chances. They lost an entire lap and were left to sprint for 8th place.
DU, GDB’s pre-race pick to win also struggled when a crash on lap 75 took them out of the lead group. Fallen rider Pete Stevens did well to control the damage and keep the team about ½ lap down. The comeback attempt was immediately enacted and Coach Jim Brunkella was changing riders rapidly. Riders swapped out every two laps to best maximize everyone’s energy levels. But as is often the case in bicycle racing, the pack was just too fast and after 20 laps, the comeback attempt was reeled in. The Boys in blue would have to settle for 9th place as Steve Tratar was edged out by Isaac Neff in the closing sprint.
The race circled on without too much excitement and it was Phi Psi, Cutters, TMT and Dodd’s House setting the pace for the majority of the time. With Black Key Bulls and top rider Isaac Neff off the lead lap, a wide open sprint finish seemed to be unavoidable. Laps 140-180 were calm, with the riders feeling each other out and waiting for the right moment to strike. Unsurprisingly, it was the Cutters who launched the winning move. Years of experience allowed Coach Jason Fowler to identify his team as the strongest. Sensing pain and weakness amongst their chief competitors, the attack was on, started by trailing Phi Psi as they came out for a burn. When they came around to pit, Cutters rider Sasha Land simply kept going. The teams remaining on the lead lap were slow to organize a chase and before too long, the Cutters had all but locked up their 9th title. After they crossed the line some 20 seconds ahead, it was TMT’s Ali Camera who put forth an impressive effort on the last lap to secure second place by about three bike lengths. He was followed by Dodd’s house, surprise contender ATO and Phi Psi to round out the top 5.
This was definitely one of the more anti-climactic races in recent years and many were disappointed not to have more exciting finish. Combined with really uncomfortable weather and this race was one you wouldn’t mind missing if you had to. With many talented riders returning next year, we’re sure to have another exciting installment at the 59th running of the Indiana University Men’s Little 500.
-Another big thank you to Young Contador for his recap.