2009 review: Cutters complete 3-peat, win 10th Little 500 title
Andrew Olanoff |
Cutters rider Eric Young celebrates after crossing the finish line and winning in the 59th annual men's Little 500 race on Saturday afternoon at Bill Armstrong Stadium. This marked the third consecutive win for the Cutters.
The wreck would not stop them.
The penalty did not slow them.
The field could not beat them.
Despite everything the Cutters faced during Saturday’s men’s Little 500, the team rode into race history when sophomore Eric Young sprinted across the finish line.
The all-time winningest team in Little 500 history won its 10th race and became the third team with three consecutive victories.
Phi Kappa Psi (1958 to 1960) and Delta Chi (1979 to 1981) are the only other teams to win the race three years in a row.
“It doesn’t mean much to me because it’s my first year,” freshman Cutters rider Michael Schroeder said. “But it’s awesome to be part of three in a row. It’s just awesome to be part of one.”
After starting in the third position and hanging in the lead pack for the first third of the race, the Cutters endured several mishaps to stay near the front.
While riding in third place, Schroeder crossed the start/finish line on the 72nd lap when a Phi Kappa Psi rider clipped his tire from behind. Schroeder tumbled off the bike as the rest of the lead pack tried to avoid the wreck.
Schroeder said he felt a bump from behind, but he thought he had recovered.
“I thought I was past it,” Schroeder said. “But the next thing I knew, he cut back into my wheel and I’m just on the ground. I just saw my bike go up and I thought, ‘Oh gosh, I have to get back up and get on it and go.’ That’s what I did.”
The wreck pushed the Cutters off the lead pack, about a half lap behind the group.
The wreck forced the team to abandon its prepared race strategy. Instead, the Cutters handed the bike to senior team captain Clayton Feldman. As the only rider with Little 500 experience, Feldman had a simple goal: catch up to the pack as soon as possible.
Within 20 laps, Feldman not only caught the pack but also put the team back in the lead.
Young said the team was confident in Feldman’s ability to catch up.
“Unless you’re lapped, you’re never really in difficulty,” Young said. “Clayton rode an awesome race, and without him we wouldn’t have been on the lead lap.”
Feldman wasn’t done riding from behind. In the final 20 laps, the Cutters were assessed a three-second penalty for riding in the gutter.
After their three seconds in the penalty area at the start/finish line, the Cutters were once again a half-lap behind the lead pack.
“It took me five or six laps to finally get back to the front,” Feldman said. “But you just have to do what you have to do at that point in time.”
In the final laps, the Cutters placed their confidence in Young, who won the Individual Time Trials on April 1. With 10 teams in contention in the final laps, Young jumped to the front at the start of lap 200 and sprinted through to the finish.
For the rest of the field, the scariest thing about the Cutters is that all but Feldman are returning. Along with Young and Schroeder, sophomore rider Zach Lusk and junior Jason Eshleman, who did not ride this year, will be on the roster next year.
Young hinted at the chance of a record fourth consecutive win.
“We have a good team with a lot of potential,” Young said. “We’ve got three rookies, and we’ll be coming next year.”