Thirty-three teams. Four laps. One goal.
On Saturday the women’s cycling teams will ride four laps around the track at Bill Armstrong Stadium with the common goal of taking home the pole. While only one will succeed, the others will fight to better their positions in qualifications for the 30th running of the women’s Little 500.
Given that exactly 33 teams qualify for the Little 500 race, no women’s team will miss the cut unless it faults on all three attempts. Although it’s likely that all the teams will qualify, Andrea Balzano, the director of the Little 500 race, said she believes there is a lot at stake.
“There are definitely a lot of teams that ride hard because they want to be on the pole,” Balzano said. “They don’t just want to be in the race. They want to be in the top 10, top five or maybe even finish first.”
This year, four new women’s teams — the Sweet Potato Club, Phi Gamma Nu, Sigma Kappa and Camp Kesem Cycling — will participate in qualifications. Four teams will not be returning — Pi Beta Phi, Delta Delta Delta, Chi Omega and reigning champion Phoenix. Because Phoenix will not be present, there will be no yellow jersey in this year’s race.
“They had a mission, they accomplished their mission, and they’re done for now,” Balzano said.
Qualifications times were chosen Monday evening as part of a semi-random draw. The top three women’s teams from the fall cycling series were able to choose their time slots, while the rest drew from a hat.
While it may seem arbitrary to some, timing can actually be a big deal for many teams.
“We didn’t really care whether we were going to ride in the morning or afternoon,” said sophomore Caitlin Kamplain, a rider for Theta Phi Alpha. “We really just wanted a time close to when the track is prepped.”
With rain in the forecast for Friday night and Saturday during the day, weather will become a concern. Riders must brake during exchanges. The rain could present some issues. For instance, if the track is wet, riders will have to brake earlier than they otherwise would.
“The track has a very finicky way of reacting to water,” Balzano said. “If it’s wet and soggy, then that will slow riders down, which isn’t ideal.”
Despite the possibility of rain, it shouldn’t affect team performance too much, Balzano said. With less than a day to go, many teams are just trying to focus on their goals.
“Our goal for qualifications is to get the best time possible, beat our time last year and have a good spot in the race,” Kamplain said.
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