On March 15, IU was officially notified that the Little 500 was canceled. Although it was a shock to most, those of us in the community have been preparing for this all year.
It is important to know that the Little 500 is more than just two days in April. The races are the highlight of the year for the students and fans. For riders and IUSF volunteers though, there are numerous events that happen in the fall and the beginning of the spring that add to the Little 500 experience. This was especially true this year: It is not only IU’s bicentennial year, but it also would have been the 70th running of the men’s race. No small feat.
The sad truth of the matter is, as riders, we have grown accustomed to let downs this entire year. As a member of Rider’s Council, it is our job to teach and aid rookies as they learn to ride on the track safely. A huge part of this is completed in the fall race series and skills clinics.
Whether it was poor planning or just a complete lack of common sense by those in charge, the construction at Bill Armstrong Stadium over the summer caused sand and debris to be mixed in with the cinders on the track. This made it so that when it was wet, it felt like riding through deep mud. Due to these unrideable track conditions, we were forced to cancel all of these critical events.
With the Little 500 community incredibly upset from all of these complications, it would have been nice to ease their minds and let them know that there was a plan in place to make sure the spring went off without a hitch. There was no plan, and if there was, we were not privy to it. Furthermore, there was no sense of urgency by those in charge to rectify the situation.
Rider’s council was left completely in the dark as to whether the track would be fixed in the spring. So I and many others were left thinking at the end of the fall semester, “Is the race even going to happen?”
Rookie Week was met with even more complications. This is the last chance for rookies to gain experience of crucial skills on the track that will be utilized in a matter of weeks. Once again, the construction hindered our ability to teach effectively.
There was no running water, therefore no bathrooms or ability to fill up water bottles. Construction hit a line, causing the track lights to be inoperable for days. Without the lights, we could not safely hold the late sessions and were forced to teach inside.
Track skills need to be taught on the track, not through a PowerPoint. Rider’s Council proposed a number of options in order to use the daylight we had to get both the men and the women out on the track. All were shot down, and we were again left in the dark.
Now that some time has passed, I have thought about how this might have actually been a good thing. With so many unprepared rookies, the field would have been especially hazardous this year. Although crashes are a part of the race, our chances of minimizing and mitigating them were eliminated throughout the year.
The races were supposed to take place this Friday and Saturday, and if you go to Bill Armstrong Stadium now, the only thing you will be met with is a sea of construction. They were never going to have the new stands completed by the race, and I can only imagine how the coverage would have looked: The camera following the riders in the back stretch, and all that can be seen is a mess of a construction.
This doesn’t seem very fitting for such a monumental year. Coronavirus might have taken away the race, but those in charge took away much more.
Patrick McKay is an IU senior majoring in biology. He is a member of Forest Cycling, and this would have been his third Little 500.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that this year would have been the 75th running of the men's Little 500. It is actually the 70th. The IDS regrets this error.