It wouldn’t be spring in Bloomington without a little rain. Better yet, it wouldn’t be spring in Bloomington without bike riders racing around the Bill Armstrong Stadium track in preparation for their Little 500 qualification attempts.
“If the track is in really good condition like we expect it to be, then that should be good for everybody,” Delta Gamma senior rider Hanna Coppens said. “It should make for really fast qualifications.”
There are 33 men’s teams and 32 women’s teams scheduled to have their summer, fall and spring training pay off this Saturday. Theta Chi will kick the day off with the first attempt at 8 a.m.
Most of the competitors took to the track Tuesday and Wednesday for practice quals. Those who slotted their time for the first session faced a partly cloudy day with a slight breeze. In the second session, teams raced through rain and around scattered puddles.
During last year's quals, riders pedaled through slush and chilling winds that slowed teams’ usual times by up to 20 seconds.
“You can’t really dwell too much on the conditions,” Gray Goat senior Billy Chien said. “Come quals, you have to deal with what you’re given.”
On the day of quals, teams will focus on themselves, their race plans and the variables they have the power to control. Chien said Gray Goat will stick to its healthy habits that have gotten it to this point in the season.
Even the smallest aspects, such as sleep, nutritious foods for breakfast and a plan for the race, will be crucial for every team competing Saturday.
“A lot of it is just confidence,” Chien said. “I know a lot of people get nervous about things like this, but it’s very important to be confident in your own abilities. Everything you could have done, you should have been doing last spring and in the fall.”
Usually to qualify for the Little 500, the top 33 teams from each field are selected based on their quals times. This year, every scheduled team will earn a spot in the 2019 race. As a result, they’ll be competing for race positioning instead.
Bloomington athletes will represent their fraternities or independent teams in less than a month. With riders coming and going on an annual basis, quals are the first spring opportunity for athletes to showcase their speed and coordination.
Excitement is swelling at IU. Teams are ready to leave it all on the track.
“We’re just really excited to see what can happen,” Coppens said. “Everybody is out there striving to win, so it’s going to be really fun.”
After eight hours of attempts, Cru Women will cap off quals at 4 p.m. Immediately following the scheduled teams, third attempts are scheduled to run until 4:50 p.m.