Two of the four women of Rainbow Cycling lean against the chain link fence separating the track from the bleachers, watching their competition practice.
Some of the women have been on this track for three races. Some saw it for the first time this year during cycling practice.
But this difference in experience will not necessarily decide the Little 500 Women’s Race.
Rainbow Cycling is in the middle of the field. Their qualification time of 02:52.96 placed them 16 out of 33, a comfortable spot for a team only 2 years old.
Juniors Torrey Byrd, Sarah Hugus and Kristen Coleman and senior Rachel Curley form the team backed by Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Student Services this year, though they’re affiliated with the center only because they joined the team. Two are veterans, two are rookies.
All joined the team for one main reason — they want to ride.
Kristen’s eyes are hidden by reflective sunglasses as she gazes into the distance, reflecting on the minutes and seconds so crucial to a bike race. She shifts her weight from foot to foot, ready to start cycling.
Kristen, a rookie, thinks about her teammates — who are the strongest riders, who are better in support roles? There isn’t a clear divide between the rookies and the veterans, she says.
“I don’t think age is a huge factor, unless there are a lot of veterans — ”
“I mean,” Torrey, a veteran, cuts in, “you guys are the two best on our team. So I’d say it doesn’t matter at all.”
Neither Torrey nor Kristen are part of the GLBT center. Both identify as heterosexual. But the center gave them a chance to ride, and they seized it.
Kristen heard about the team through a friend, and Torrey says recruitment for the team usually happens that way.
The original Rainbow Cycling team was in the men’s Little 500 and debuted in 2006. Though the team did not return, its founder, Jacob Sinex, did. He now coaches the women’s team.
“Oh, Jacob,” Torrey laughs. “We all love Jacob.”
It’s strong camaraderie that marks Rainbow Cycling, both women agree.
It’s kept the women strong through long months of training — they began taking long rides together in August to start building the muscle groups required to ride the 25.49 miles of the women’s race.
Kristen remembers early rides from campus to Lake Monroe. They circled the lake on those rides. It was a perfect, if painful, way to familiarize the women with the sport.
As a result, Kristen says she is in much better shape than before she joined the team.
“Being on a team has been good motivation because you don’t want to let them down,” she says.
But the team is about more than the exercise, building tradition and friendship. It’s about a community.
“It’s our way of supporting people, even though it’s an unorthodox way to support GLBT,” Torrey says.
Having a team affiliated with the GLBT center is a way to spread awareness and support for a strong community, Kristen agrees.
“It’s giving them a team to root for,” Kristen says.
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