Column: Little Five riders deserve our respect

OK, now that I’ve stated that fact, I’m going to tell you all the reasons why, for the athletes competing in the race itself, it is far from an intramural sport.

IU has three types of sports: Division-I, club and intramural.

Intramural sports are supposed to be at the bottom of the totem pole. They are the sports that don’t take much practice and are done simply for fun and possibly a T-shirt.

If you have been on this campus for more than a year, have ridden in the Little 500 or know someone who has, you’ve seen all the ways this sporting event defies the definition of an intramural sport.

Let’s start with the training. Each team has different training regimens. The teams that train the longest begin when school starts in August. Returning riders would probably say they never stop training.

The fall season is the lighter of the two training periods. Riders during the fall might ride around 14 hours per week. The spring brings a more intense type of training. The hours themselves might be shorter, but physicality of the training is that of a D-I athlete.

The riders give up their spring breaks to stay in Bloomington to train once the track opens. Many teams also give up part of their winter breaks to go on training trips in warmer climates.

They give up a lot during Little 500 week itself. When their friends are out partying all day and night, these riders are getting in last-chance training sessions and going to bed early.

The financial commitment is also great, more on the level of club sport participation.

I’ve seen people spend thousands of dollars on bikes without even knowing for sure if they would ride in the race.

Teams pay for coaches, places to stay on training trips and other equipment.

Independent teams have to find many ways to obtain funding for this while fraternity and sorority teams might get more financial help from their houses.

It is easy to say that this race is being done for more than winning a T-shirt. Winning the Little 500 is the experience of a lifetime.

To win the race means to be forever in the history books of the world’s Greatest College Weekend. It means winning one of the most exciting cycling events in the country. It means seeing the hard work and training pay off.

The Little 500 is so much more than an intramural sport, but keeping the race in that category makes this weekend everything that it is special for.

Those involved race for pride. They don’t race for scholarship money or pro contracts. They race because they love to ride, love IU and love the Little 500. If they were riding for something else, it would never be the same.

We all know these riders deserve credit for what they’ve done. They deserve our highest level of respect.

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