The sprouting of flowers and green grass usually marks the start of spring season around the globe, but for IU, it also marks the start of IU's Little 500 season, beginning with qualifications followed by the big races.
IU’s Little 500 is the largest collegiate bike race in the nation, and it raises money to fund college scholarships for those in need. To begin this part of the season, each team must participate in qualifications for a chance to bike in the Little 500 race.
There are many requirements and rules that bikers must follow before competing in quals. Before competing, each team member must have logged 7.5 hours on the track for training and turn in the two bikes that are previously issued for practice, which must also meet all requirements.
Each team’s qualifications time is determined previously through a drawing supervised by the Little 500 Cycling Committee. Teams usually contain four riders but can have a minimum of two.
Before taking the track in an attempt to qualify to race, riders will receive their bikes, warm up, and receive a final briefing of the rules. To begin, the first rider will complete a warm up lap, and once the rider crosses the start line the timer and the qualification attempt will begin.
Each rider will complete one timed lap and a successful bike exchange. This exchange must take place within 16 feet of either side of the starting line, totaling 32 feet in between two white lines marking the exchange zone.
Regarding exchanges, there are two ways teams can complete this process. This can be either a traditional bike exchange, in which a rider jumps off the bike and hands it to another rider to jump on to, or a full bike exchange, involving two separate bikes, where one biker jumps off their bike to tag the other biker, which signals them to jump onto their bike.
If this occurs within the exchange zone, it is considered a fair exchange. Once a team completes four laps with at least three exchanges, the qualification process is completed.
Each team has three attempts to qualify. The first qual time is set for 8 a.m. and the last time is at 4:50 p.m. If a team fouls on both of their first two attempts, the team will have to wait until after all teams have had the opportunity to qualify. 10 minutes past the last set of qualification times will mark the beginning of teams' final chance to make the race.
After a team qualifies, its time is posted on a board located on the inside of the track, which is updated throughout the day. The top 33 times for both the mens and women's teams will qualify to race in the Little 500 race.
Teams will not qualify if their qualification time is not in the top 33 times or if the team receives more than three fouls. A foul will result in the forfeit of a qualifications attempt. There are many ways to receive a foul, including improper bike exchanges, falling, dropping the bike, and biking into the gutter or infield.
The Little 500 race showcases talent each year, and quals provides fans the chance to preview this year’s teams and talent to receive a glimpse of how each team should perform during the Little 500 Race.
Last year’s Little 500 men's race champions, the Black Key Bulls, are a team to look out for. This team successfully nabbed the victory in a time of 02:12:29.518, 12 seconds before any other team. Behind them were Gray Goat and Cutters battling for second place with the times of 02:12:41.262 and 02:12:41.639 respectively.
Another team to look out for this year during qualifications is Sigma Alpha Epsilon. This team has placed in the top ten for the past four years, their fastest time being 02:05:13.091 in 2016, when they placed in second. In the 2017 qualifications, Sigma Alpha Epsilon placed in first with a time of 02:22.580, a full two seconds ahead of any other team.
For the women, traditionally, Kappa Alpha Theta completes top times in both quals and in the Little 500 race. The sorority is also credited for the creation of the women's race. In last year’s Little 500 Race, the women of the Kappa Alpha Theta bike team came out victorious after completing 100 laps in 01:09:49.116, and they placed second in qualifications with a time of 02:37.368, behind Delta Gamma, another team that consistently puts up top times.
Last year, Delta Gamma won quals with a time of 02:33.308, four seconds before any other team, but then fell behind Alpha Omicron Pi in the Little 500 Race. Alpha Omicron Pi completed the Little 500 Race in 01:09:53.06,5 coming in second place, but came in third behind Kappa Alpha Theta in qualifications with a time of 02:39.083.
In the past three years, these teams have been top competitors in both the Little 500 Race and qualifications.