For an event rich with tradition like the Little 500, honoring the seniors with a backward lap around the track is one of the most notable. It’s an opportunity for the seniors to look back on everything they’ve learned from the experience, before having to lock in and get ready to race.
For Delta Chi senior rider Abel Barrera Duran, the Little 500 has been a great learning experience. Duran will be riding in his fourth race this year, and said the Little 500 has been one of the most valuable experiences during his time at IU.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is team development and leadership,” Duran said. “I came into a historic program that needed some rekindling, and it’s been a great experience in terms of learning how to develop as a leader.”
Senior Johnathan Steenport of Forest Cycling said that Little 500 introduced him to a completely different style of biking. While he had been a casual rider for a long time, Steenport said there was nothing quite like riding on the track at Bill Armstrong Stadium.
“You really have to learn what the track’s like, how the track conditions change and how to ride in a pack,” Steenport said.
Steenport also focused on his experiences in learning to ride with a team. He said learning the tendencies and strengths of his teammates is something that is distinctive of the Little 500.
“The cool thing about riding with a team is you have different strengths per rider,” Steenport said. “You obviously want to have four really strong guys, but everyone’s going to have their strengths and weaknesses and you can use that to your advantage.”
With an event as highly charged and competitive as the Little 500, the senior ceremony can be an emotional one. With so much time and effort devoted to the race, the riders said it’s always tough to say goodbye to such a defining part of their IU experience. However, Duran said he isn’t really sure what to expect when he takes the backward lap.
“Since race day is so important for everybody, you kind of zone out,” Duran said. “I never remember most of the ceremonial parts of the race, and it just flashes by. I think if I pay attention, it probably might be, but because it’s such an important moment I’m not sure if I’ll be focused on that.”
For Steenport, the ceremony means the end of his two-year Little 500 career. After an 11th place finish in last year’s race, Steenport said he feels better going into the race, and is excited at the possibility of a better finish this year.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Steenport said. “This being my second year, I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished so far and I’m really looking forward to this year’s race. I’m excited to take what I’ve learned from Little 500 and move on and keep cycling.”
As one of the more experienced rider in this year’s field, Duran said he looked back on his career with fondness. He highlighted last year’s race as something that made him particularly made him proud.
“Last year was a great experience,” Duran said. “We managed to win Dixie Highway with a 12th place finish from a 30th position qualification with only three people. Apart from that award, I also walked away with an All-Star Rider Award, so that was amazing to finally have something tangible from my efforts at Little 500.”
However, when asked what his favorite memory of the event will be, Duran was only looking forward to next Saturday.
“I’d like to say that it’s yet to come,” Duran said.