Starting a few weeks ago, every Monday through Friday leading up to April 20 and 21, cyclists are practicing at Bill Armstrong Stadium to compete in Little 500, or so it seems.
Every rider is there in anticipation of Little 500, but not every single one is solely focused on the most anticipated event of the year at IU.
Unbeknownst to many, IU has its own cycling club.
The club has 80 individuals and competes against other schools in the Midwest Collegiate Cycling Conference.
There are seven collegiate race weekends each year, and just last weekend, the IU team competed at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Kentucky.
But, for the first time since 1994, the cycling club is having an event here in Bloomington.
Senior Abel Duran, executive board member and rider, said in years past the club was more about individual riders wanting to qualify for nationals rather than the inclusivity of the group. So, Duran said deciding to have an event in Bloomington is a step in the culture change he and his executive members are trying to create for the club.
"We wanted to change the approach altogether," Duran said. "It’s more along the lines of trying to build the club from the ground up, not trying to focus on getting individuals to nationals."
The event this weekend on March 10 and 11 is called the Candy Stripe Classic and will be a two-day event.
On Saturday, teams at the event will compete in the Team Time Trial. These time trials will be a 5.6-mile race, beginning at 8:15 a.m., through the trails and hills of the Morgan-Monroe State Forest. The results from this race count toward teams attempting to qualify for collegiate nationals May 4 to 6 in Grand Junction, Colorado.
After the trials, there will be a road race in the same location. The road race is a 14-mile loop and the distance of the race will depend on the respective tiers. Based on experience and talent, the tiers are divided into four — A, B, C and D, with A being the top tier.
The IU team most strongly represents in the B tier, as it swept the podium in last weekend’s road race in Kentucky and criterium race by executing its strategy to perfection.
“We had one rider break away and go out ahead while the rest of the team blocked the road for him,” junior rider Kurtis Greer said. “We went one, two, three in both races, and it was really amazing to watch.”
The B tier on March 10 will be a 42-mile race and will begin at 1:05 p.m. The rest of the tiers will start at different times, with the first one, the men's C race, being at 10:30 a.m.
The next day will be the criterium, which will be raced in the parking lot of Memorial Stadium. It will be a .8-mile loop, and instead of going for distance, riders will race for a specific amount of time. All the races range from 30 to 70 minutes and will begin at 8:30 a.m.
“I’m really excited about it,” junior rider Erin Adair said. “We went to Kentucky last weekend, and a lot of people were like, ‘Oh, we’ll see you in Bloomington next weekend,’ which is a really cool feeling. I think it will draw a lot more people, too.”
The attention the cycling club gets is minimal due to the big focus on Little 500, but Adair said she hopes having events in town will draw more people to come watch and gain more attention. The club doesn't just want attention from local residents, however, but from more student riders as well, since most students in cycling club are all participants in Little 500.
Greer said he thinks students limit themselves by just choosing to race in the Little 500.
“I think a lot of people would enjoy it if they expanded their involvement in the sport,” Greer said. “I don’t see the point in training for an entire year just to have one day of racing. The way I see it, train all year and race as much as you can.”
Adair countered that by saying some may not want to join the club because they don’t want to risk any accidents and injuries so close to the Little 500, the ultimate event the riders train for.
No matter the viewpoint, Duran said he thinks the club is a great way to continue training, create friendships and compete at a sport you enjoy. It isn’t mandatory for riders to participate in every race the club signs up for, which allows students to be cautious for the races near April.
The club’s ultimate goal is to get more attention and people to join, but an overarching goal is to make cycling a varsity sport at IU.
IU competes against several schools that have cycling teams as varsity sports, such as Marian University and Lindenwood University. Greer said the trend seems to be that the smaller schools feature cycling as a varsity sport, while bigger schools don’t.
Both Greer and Duran said they understand revenue is a big part of creating a varsity team and know it’s about what you can provide for the school before what the school can provide for you. They brainstormed ideas such as lobbying alumni, but said they understand they are a ways away from turning the cycling club into something bigger.
However, having the race in Bloomington this weekend isn’t hurting their cause.
“That’s the dream,” Greer said about making cycling a varsity sport. “Hosting the event this weekend is definitely a huge step in that direction because it puts us on the map.”
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