The cycling coach Courtney Bishop speaks quietly just minutes before one of his star pupils Luke Tormoehlen puts up the second-fastest Individual Time Trial time of 2016.
His Delta Tau Delta team says he’s the loudest Little 500 coach out there, and Bishop doesn’t rebut that claim.
He has reason to be loud: he’s turned around the once declining Delts cycling program and made it into a consistent threat to taking home the Little 500 title.
“The program has come a long way,” Bishop said. “I took over the program in 2009 and they were historically one of the worst fraternities.”
The Delts failed to qualify in 2002 and 2003, and did not crack the top-ten in the subsequent years prior to his arrival.
Ever since Bishop became coach in 2009, the Delts have been one of the best, if not the best, Little 500 team, Bishop said. The crown jewel of those seven years was their Little 500 title in 2012 and their average finish during Bishop’s time at the helm has been third.
What’s changed during that time period?
“I don’t know if there’s another team that trains as hard as we do,” freshman Griffin Casey said. “We care a lot about this and we put in another level of work.”
The one driving their workouts is Bishop.
“I am probably very loud,” Bishop said. “I try and use that in a motivational way and I think it makes our workouts unique. If you can get through our workouts, the race is nothing.”
Bishop said a lot of guys come to the team with no cycling experience, but their effort through training molds them into top riders. Bishop said he constantly resets the bar in terms of what hard is for the riders, and that is what makes all the difference.
Once they have mastered one level of training, Bishop intensifies it to a new degree.
Two of the riders who Bishop said came in with little cycling experience and have developed into top riders are seniors Luke Tormoehlen and Anthony Vicino, who have ridden in the past two Little 500s for the Delts.
The other riders don’t have any race experience.
“We have had really good leadership,” Casey said. “They have paved the way for us to do well and set us up to be well-prepared for the race, so there’s not a reason to worry about experience.”
For the past two years, the Delts have been near the front of the race but have come up short in the closing moments.
In last year’s race, the Delts gained a 15-second lead late in the race. The front of the pack caught back up with them, and the Delts ended up finishing sixth.
“We can learn from last year’s race,” Tormoehlen said. “Knowing how much riders have left is something we are going to do this year. Breaking away late put us in a difficult position, and we were maxed out.”
In 2014, the Delts were in a sprint to the finish and finished fourth.
Vicino said riding in those two races gave him a good idea of what the race could throw at them and has helped them prepare for this year’s race.
“We have been so close these past two years on the last two laps,” Vicino said. “We want to lead into the next chapter of Delts cycling.”
Tormoehlen is the Delts’ top rider in this year’s race. He had the second-fastest ITT time and was narrowly edged out in Miss N Out’s by Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s Krahulik brothers.
“Winning the race would mean everything to me,” Tormoehlen said. “It would be satisfaction for all the hard work we’ve put in. My life revolves around the Little 500.”
For this team, winning a second Little 500 title would be a nod to the past.
“It would be so awesome to win for the alumni,” sophomore Jack Moore said. “They have done so much work to make our program what it is today. To see the fruits of their labor pay off would be great.”
Tormoehlen echoed that sentiment, and as captain he knows how big winning would be for the future of Delts cycling.
“It would be a big win for this team,” Tormoehlen said. “But it would be a big win for the continuation of our program’s sustainability.”
The Delts have a good chance to add to their run of strong finishes as they start in the second position, the highest in their program’s history.
“Continuing that line of riders is what drives them,” Bishop said. “It’s starting to get to a point where winning is almost an expectation.”