The past few months, 33 teams have put countless hours training on rollers and at the track all for the same goal. It’s all been leading up to this one April afternoon.
The 69th running of the men’s Little 500 will be this Saturday at 2 p.m. There were only 33 men’s teams that registered for the race this year, which meant that every team qualified no matter what happened during Qualifications.
Miss N Out was canceled after the first round due to rain. The three winners from the Spring Series all came from different teams. They were the same three teams that finished in the top-3 of the Little 500 the past two years.
Cutters dominated Qualifications, Xavier Martinez of Black Key Bull’s had the best Individual Time Trial and Gray Goat won convincingly in Team Pursuit.
Cutters will be wearing the yellow jerseys once again after edging out Gray Goat last year to win its 13th championship, the most in Little 500 history. The win also broke a six-year drought. Despite returning three riders from last year, Cutters doesn't feel any pressure to repeat.
“We’re coming into this as a competitor, not as someone who’s already won something,” Cutters junior William Huibregtse said. “I don’t think we’re going to have an issue with nerves or anxiety about the race because of expectations from last year.”
In Qualifications, Cutters beat out Phi Kappa Psi by over six seconds to claim pole position. It’s the second year in a row that Cutters had the best qualifications time.
In Individual Time Trials, Cutters senior Noble Guyon came in second place to Martinez by less than one second. Team Pursuit was the only event that Cutters didn’t see success in after a rider slipped on one of the turns.
“I think something that teams often deal with going into a Little 500 after winning, they kind of just expect to be good without changing anything,” Huibregtse said. “We definitely took this year with the mindset that we still have everything to prove.”
NEH Cycling is a new team in the field this year. Despite that, it has more experience than most others.
After pledging to Alpha Epsilon Pi last year, Griffin Tichenor and Reid Geiger decided to leave the fraternity and its Little 500 team to form their own independent team.
Nick’s English Hut agreed to sponsor the team which resulted in the founding of NEH Cycling. It features three riders who have raced in the Little 500 before. The fourth rider is rookie Fergus Arthur, who placed eighth in ITTs.
“The expectation is to be in the hunt,” Tichenor said. “If it’s our day then hopefully we can come out with the win. Ultimately, nothing is guaranteed in Little 500. It’s a lot of luck. A lot of factors go into the win. We’re really just trying to do our best and we think on a good day, we can get the win.”
Luck hasn’t been on the side of Gray Goat the past two years. It has finished as the runner up to Cutters in 2018 and to Black Key Bulls in 2017.
With all three of those teams returning multiple key riders, it’s not difficult to imagine those three teams finishing in the top three for the third straight year.
No matter the favorites, everyone has the same odds when the race begins. All 33 teams will push until the end for that opportunity to hold the Borg-Warner Trophy.
“Race day, anything can happen,” Gray Goat sophomore Jack Dunsford said. “Everything kind of goes out the window for that day. It’s just all about what you can do for that day.”
Editors Note: Noble Guyon has previously worked for the Indiana Daily Student.