Anticipation is running high as riders finish the final preparations for the Little 500 race, which is set to commence this weekend.
The 2018 Spring Series saw senior Brooke Hannon of Melanzana break the Individual Time Trials record and Alpha Kappa Lambda qualify for the first time in its history.
Now all eyes are on Friday and Saturday when the women’s and men’s races will begin, respectively.
Senior Rachel Brown of Kappa Alpha Theta finished in first place in Miss N Out, but she said it doesn’t matter when the big race begins.
“Nothing changes because of spring series,” Brown said. “We already know what we’re capable of regardless of the outcome in any individual event. It feels good to do well in those, but it is in no way what we’re focused on. Our eyes are only on the race.”
Kappa Alpha Theta returns as last year’s champion, where it pulled ahead of the rest of the field after a crash at the start of the 35th lap. Brown said even though emotions are running high, especially for the seniors, the team isn’t putting any pressure on themselves entering this year’s event.
“I think it’s easy to feel like it’s the biggest thing you do, and it encompasses a lot," Brown said. "In reality, I’m only going to be riding my bike for 20 minutes on Friday. That would be a generous estimate. Honestly, we just try to look at it as simple as possible, because you get out there and you do what you’ve done every day for years.”
After finishing sixth in last year’s race, Melanzana impressed throughout this year’s Spring Series. Hannon broke the record for the fastest time in ITT history and finished with a time of 02:33.083.
Hannon said the team’s performance throughout the spring only gives a glimpse to what it is capable of for Friday’s race. She said she is confident in her ability to win close sprints after her ITT performance.
“It just shows sprinter potential,” Hannon said. “So, if the race came down to a sprint, our team would be fairly confident in putting me on the bike. If there’s any kind of break-away, like last year’s race, I have full confidence that I would be able to chase it down.”
Although Black Key Bulls took home the Borg-Warner Trophy when it was all said and done in the men’s race last year, there are many other teams who are returning multiple riders. One team who is returning multiple riders is Bears Cycling, who placed No. 16 in qualifications.
Senior rider Riley Figg said his team’s expectations are high, and he expects nothing short of a victory.
“The expectation is to win,” Figg said. “Last year we placed sixth, and we’re turning four starters from last year’s team. We’re on of the most experienced teams in field, so we’re shooting for nothing short of the trophy.”
The weather has been gloomy and cold throughout each Spring Series event, including snow and high winds. This weekend is predicted to be different with partly cloudy skies and temperatures as high as 60 degrees.
Riders are looking forward to race in ideal weather this time around, and it only adds to the anticipation.
“It’s a little bit surreal every year to work for something for so long and then have the opportunity presented to you,” Brown said. “Our goal is always to win and that’s something we’re proud of maintaining year-in and year-out.”
The 31st running of the women’s race is set to begin at 4 p.m. Friday at Bill Armstrong Stadium, while the 68th running of the men’s race will commence at 2 p.m. Saturday.