70-percent chance of showers awaits Little 500 riders

Kappa Alpha Theta senior Kristen Metherd said she’s checked the race- day forecast about five times a day. For Kappa Kappa Gamma junior Katie Sauter, it’s the first
thing she looks for on her phone in the morning.

The same thing is on everyone’s mind: How much of a factor will weather be in this year’s Little 500 races?

With a 70-percent chance of rain for the scheduled 4 p.m. race start — and a likely chance for it to continue throughout the evening — the 2010 women’s race could be more about splashes and slips than crashes and sprints.

“I’ve been checking the weather all week waiting for the percentages to go down, and they just go up,” Metherd said.

If the percentages prove true, the riders will be racing in the rain. If it’s just rain, the race will proceed on schedule. However, if a thunderstorm or unbearable rain hits Bloomington prior to the halfway point of the race, the contingency plan is to finish the race later Friday evening or Saturday morning before the men’s race, according to race chief steward Mike Howard.

If the women’s race reaches lap 51 (out of 100), the race will end on the lap on which it is stopped with the current leader taking the race title.

Sauter said she hopes the race can stay on schedule.

“We’re just ready to do it,” Sauter said. “We’ve been preparing. We don’t want to wait any longer. Everything is set up to be at 4 p.m. We definitely want to get it done in
one sitting and be able to celebrate afterwards.”

For Delta Gamma senior Lauren Half, rain doesn’t mean much to her team, which qualified third and is seeking to match its 2008 title.

“It won’t be that bad for us because we don’t really care,” Half said. “We can ride in the rain or the sun.”

Teammate junior Kelsey Kent said they have accepted the reality of race-day rain.
“We’ve prepared ourselves that it’s going to rain,” Kent said. “You can’t sit around and whine about it. It’s going to rain. Rain is coming. You have to accept it.”

Rain will likely alter racing strategies for many of the teams. Instead of focusing on riding in a pack or pushing the pace, teams will have to consider other issues first.

“It would pull back the aggressiveness,” Metherd said. “If it rains, the number one thing is safety. The last thing you want to get in is a wreck. That would just be the worst-case scenario.”

The potential for the race to be ended early will also carry weight in race strategy.
Many top teams feature a sprinter who will ride only a few laps the entire race — the last few.

“If the race is called, if you have a good sprinter sitting on the trainer, that’s a huge disadvantage to those teams,” Metherd said.

Half doesn’t think the winner of a race-shortened event will be as legitimate.

“If the race is shortened, no one will take the winning seriously,” Half said. “We train for a 100-lap race as a team. If they call the race halfway through and the sprinters aren’t even on, it doesn’t seem fair.”

Nevertheless, all the teams are facing the same situation.

“Everyone will be in the same boat,” Sauter said.

Figuratively, and maybe literally, too.

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