Delta Gamma had just reached the back of the lead pack and made a move to pass on the 41st lap in the women’s Little 500 on Wednesday.
It put them a full lap ahead of the pack and the race wasn’t competitive again.
“It was not our plan whatsoever,” fifth year Delta Gamma rider Katherine Free said. “But we adapted when we had the opportunity and just went for it.”
The original plan was to try to break away from the pack near the 85th lap, but the move came a lot sooner thanks to a faster than expected start.
“[Senior Kensington Knowling] was in for the first set and just gave a phenomenal burn,” Free said. “We saw a gap right there and figured ‘let's go for it now,’ and if it doesn’t work we can try again later.”
The move worked, pushing Delta Gamma past a series of close finishes in recent years to win its fourth Little 500. Delta Gamma finished second in 2018 and 2019 and finished third in 2017.
Free said despite the large lead, Delta Gamma never took the victory for granted.
“I don’t think we realized it until we were at 99,” Free said. “I mean anything can happen, you can go down in a crash. We acted like it was not our race until it was our race.”
Delta Gamma, who qualified in third, finished a full lap ahead of second-place Alpha Xi Delta and third-place Kappa Alpha Theta.
“It’s a sense of relief almost,” Alpha Xi Delta senior Jess Hamilton said. “It’s over. Everything we’ve worked for for two years is over. It’s disappointing not to have it be first but I’m still happy and so proud.”
The second place finish was the best in Alpha Xi Delta history, beating its previous best seventh place finish.
With Delta Gamma already finished, the last lap became a race for second. Hamilton said she was focused on track positioning for her last spring lap.
Hamilton was behind Kappa Alpha Theta and Melanzana Cycling coming out of turn two on the last lap.
“I knew if I tried to pass on the outside and we went three wide, there’s no way I would’ve gotten around them,” Hamilton said. “Luckily they left the inside a little bit open, so I was able to take the inside line and go off.”
Free said racing was much easier racing knowing they could just stay with the lead pack and not worry about making passing moves.
“At that point we just wanted to lap the field,” Free said. “Once we were sitting in with the pack we knew that we just had to time up our exchanges with the rest of the pack and continue to bridge that gap.”
Free said Delta Gamma was racing for its three riders who missed out on their senior years last year.
Wednesday’s race was run over two years after the last Little 500 in 2019. The 2020 race was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Safety precautions in place for the race meant no fans were allowed in person and riders couldn’t celebrate with family after finishing. Hamilton called her parents after the race and said she would have done anything to hug them.
“I’m disappointed in Indiana University for not letting our parents be here,” Hamilton said. “All of us wish they could’ve been here, and they could've been here with the testing and all the COVID precautions we’ve taken. It’s a huge disappointment.”