Each year, the IU Student Foundation addresses the quality of the Little 500 and its safety with the Riders Council. Five changes and clarifications, including a ban on the use of headphones or earbuds, are in place for this year's race.
“The goal is always to make the race as safe as possible and to make sure the experience is the best experience possible for riders," Andrea Balzano, IUSF assistant director of Little 500 races said. “Safety is our priority, and we want to do everything we can to make the race as safe as possible, and often times, changes may revolve around that.”
Rookie riders are now mandated to complete a series of requirements before being granted eligibility to race with their respective teams. These guidelines are scheduled in the spring, but early fulfillment requirements are also available in the fall.
“The rookie changes were something that was discussed with the Riders Council last year just based on feedback we were getting from rookies themselves, as well as veteran riders on their teams,” Little 500 Riders Council President Xavier Martinez said.
IUSF also added a coaching registration process.
In the past, riders and teams have registered for the yearly race, but coaches haven’t been accounted for. For teams to seek the assistance of a coach, they must now adhere to a specific criteria, such as being "an experienced and knowledgeable person in the sport of cycling," according to of the 2019 Little 500 Manual.
“We have many dozens of people that coach our Little 500 teams and that work with our students,” Balzano said. “Whether that’s at the track or off of the track out in the roads of Bloomington, we’ve never had a formal way for coaches to register.”
Fundamental changes to the Little 500 rules are better described as clarifications that benefit the safety of the riders, spectators and other personnel in the race’s attendance.
Balzano said these changes were due to a yearly safety assessment. No prior incident had occurred to initiate an act of response by the IUSF or the Riders Council.
This year, the use of headphones or earbuds by riders, coaches and mechanics is strictly forbidden. This change will allow individuals in the field to utilize all their senses and have a greater awareness of their surroundings.
Additionally, clarifications are listed for team mechanics in order to keep them as close to their designated areas as possible. Each team’s designated area is now defined as one pit length on either side of the team’s pit. Mechanics may leave this specified location during the first 10 laps of the men’s race — five for the women’s.
The final change listed in the 2019 Little 500 Manual indicates teams will be subject to disqualification if medical staff deems it unsafe for a rider to continue racing due to injury and the rider fails to comply.
“We’re here to make this race better,” Martinez said. “Not only this year, but for everyone that comes after us.”