The feel in Bloomington during the month of April is one of excitement. Not because the end of the semester is near or because the weather should — key word should — be warming up, but because it’s Little 500 season.
Deemed the largest collegiate bike race in the United States, the Little 500 is also the biggest event at IU each year, attracting 25,000-plus people to the event.
But, before the historic events take place on April 20 and 21, there are a few pre-race events. The first of these is qualifications, referred to as “quals.”
It will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 24 at Bill Armstrong Stadium.
Not only does quals qualify a team into Little 500, it also determines starting positions based on their qualification time. Each team will have three attempts to qualify.
Both men's and women's teams must complete four laps, with each designated rider biking one lap. There are many ways to fail an attempt, including mechanical errors with the bike, but the most common way is during the exchange. In an exchange, the rider receiving the bike will need to gain complete control of it before the rear wheel crosses the second line, which represents the end of the exchange zone.
The rider receiving the bike also may not touch it until the front wheel is past the first line, which represents the start of the exchange zone. With that, the rider passing off the bike may also not touch the bike after it crosses the second line. The two lines are 16 feet apart.
There is also an option to use more than one bike in an exchange, instead of handing off one. If teams choose to do this, the outgoing rider must stay stationary with its rear wheel being on the first line until the incoming rider comes in and makes a clear tag, a slap of the hand. Then the outgoing rider can start to pedal, and the incoming rider must stop before crossing the second line.
Failure to follow any of those rules, along with falling off the bike, will result in a foul. The exchanges aren’t the easiest things to perform, hence the three attempts.
The goal in the first attempts are to get the fastest time possible to get a good starting position in the race, but if exchanges start to become a problem, teams will slow it down in their last attempt and risk a slow time for the sake of qualifying.
Even though spring has officially started, the weather in Bloomington looks like it’s December. There have already been cancellations to Little 500 practices this week due to the weather. If the weather fails to comply for quals, the event will be moved to the day after.
The public is welcome to come watch this event, which is free to attend.
If you are walking around outside on campus at any point on March 24 and hear yelling and screaming, it won’t be from a baseball, softball or tennis match, but rather from everyone in the stands at Bill Armstrong Stadium as their teams try to qualify for the Little 500.