Men's race: Top teams vie for championship Saturday
But for senior rider Kevin Depasse and the rest of his Cutters, the 62nd running of the men’s Little 500 is just another race.
“The Little 500 is a crazy, crazy little bike race,” Depasse said. “At the end of the day, that’s all it is. There’s no real pressure.”
Regardless, the Cutters intend to extend their five consecutive wins and 12 overall victories — both of which are already Little 500 records — to six and 13, respectively.
Along with the Cutters, 32 other men’s teams will suit up and try to bring home the coveted Borg-Warner Trophy. The race is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Saturday at Bill Armstrong Stadium.
Several teams intend to break the Cutters’ streak.
Phi Delta Theta won the Spring Series, consisting of the mini events Individual Time Trials, Miss-N-Out and Team Pursuit. Phi Delt will don the white jersey for its victory.
The team features experienced veteran Steve Sharp, who won Miss-N-Out and placed second in ITTs. Phi Delt has placed second the past two races and will attempt to win its first championship since 2001.
Delta Tau Delta finished third place in the series and only three points behind the second-place Cutters. Delta Tau Delta’s top rider, RJ Stuart, recorded the best ITT time while finishing second in Miss-N-Out.
Beta Theta Pi will wear the green jersey as the pole-sitters after placing first in Qualifications. William Kragie of Beta finished third in Miss-N-Out and placed seventh in ITTs.
CSF Cycling is in only its second year participating in the Little 500 but was able to grab the second-best Qualification time, placing the team in the front line to begin the race.
Sophomores Ryan Wilkins and Jake Yager of CSF are partaking in their first Little 500, and they said they’re excited for the experience.
“It’s gonna be a rush,” Wilkins said. “I’m really pumped to race. I’m really intimidated by some teams, but we’ve been practicing a lot, and we can do really well if we put our minds to it.”
In total, CSF has four rookies out of six riders and will only lose one for next season.
“I think with us being a young team, we’re not looking at it as a disadvantage,” Yager said. “Being a new team, if anything, this is a learning experience. Then next year we’ll be able to come back that much better with all the riders we have returning.”
The weather forecast for Saturday predicts rain, which would create adverse conditions for the riders. Junior Tyler Dennis of the Black Key Bulls, another top team that placed third in Qualifications, isn’t worried about the rain.
“It rains on everybody,” he said. “I don’t think it will affect (the race) at all. I think the top teams will stay the top teams, and everybody else will fall in line. Maybe mental toughness will be more of a factor.”
If the Cutters do, indeed, extend their record to six in a row, they will have to overcome more than just the weather. This year, the team is without Eric Young, who landed the best ITT time from 2009-11 and won the USA Cycling Professional Criterium National Championship just four months after his final Little 500 appearance.
Depasse said he is confident his team will be fine.
“Eric was special,” he said. “But I think he would be the first to say that him leaving has zero effect on this year’s race team. It takes all four guys to win the race.”