Little 5 rookie week ends without a tire on track


Armstrong Stadium is covered in about eight inches of snow. Firsttime Little 500 riders have been unable to practice on the track during rookie week, which was scheduled to begin this past Monday. Courtney Deckard Buy Photos

But snow — eight inches of it, with more likely on the way — is a different matter.
Little 500 rookie week, which kicks off the spring season, has been relegated to two indoor meetings as riders and race organizers wait for the snow covering the Bill
Armstrong Stadium racetrack to melt.

“Every day I wake up and see  more snow on the ground and know I won’t be going out to the track,” said Pat Tracy, sophomore rookie and Pi Kappa Phi rider.

Scheduled to begin this past Monday, the on-track rookie week activities are postponed indefinitely. With snow showers in the forecast for the weekend, Little 500 race director Pam Loebig said the on-track activities could be limited next week as well.

Rookie week gives new riders an opportunity to hone racing skills, including bike exchanges and pack riding, before the veteran riders begin practice.

“We’re all crossing our fingers for warm weather,” said sophomore rookie rider Alyssa

Rookies are required to attend all rookie week activities, unless class or work schedules interfere. Many rookies cleared their schedule this week and will have to do so again once the track clears.

“Now that rookie week is going to be extended, it’s going to be detrimental for classes,” Byron said, mentioning she gave up attending review sessions. “I’m not too thrilled about it, but it’s something I know I have to do.”

Senior Little 500 Riders Council member and Mezcla team member Chelsea Merta said while the snow is discouraging, it is not unexpected.

“My rookie week was more like a rookie month,” Merta said. “It is almost a rite of passage that you have to have snow.”

As a veteran, Merta emphasized rookie week is important for everyone’s safety involved with Little 500, even if it means less practice time.

“Missing it in order to teach the rookies is OK,” Merta said. “I have to worry about the safety of everyone on the track.”

The Riders Council — a 16-member council of veteran riders — conducted informational meetings for the rookies. All rookies are required to pass a written exam that covers race rules, history and rookie requirements.

While most teams continue with indoor winter training, Byron emphasized that for rookies, getting a feel for the track is of utmost importance.

“We really want to get on the track. Our main focus is getting a feel for the cinders. It has a different texture. It’s going to feel different, especially for people not used to riding a road bike,” Byron said.

Senior John Bishop, a Riders Council member from Pi Kappa Phi, said while snow is
typical for rookie week, this year’s snow accumulation is unusually high.

“Generally every year, rookie week is fly by the seat of your pants, take what you get,” Bishop said. “But this has been the worst year we have had as far as snow goes.”

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