Adversity and resilience are two things that Beta Cycling was very familiar with this past spring. With Joe going down during Spring Break, we lost a strong and experienced rider who was to be replaced by a young, inexperienced rider in myself. It was time for us to prove to the campus and the Little 500 community that we were still one of the best teams on campus.
Many experienced Little 500 riders will tell you that they do not remember anything besides maybe a set or two from their first Little 500. I was told this numerous times by my older teammates but merely brushed it aside, thinking to myself how could such a memorable event not be remembered. But they were right. As I reflect on my first Little 500, I remember only crucial moments and the first time I hopped on that Schwinn bicycle.
I had just one short month to mentally and physically whip myself into Little 500 material. I was confident in my abilities, strength, and stamina, but as any newcomer in my position, I was feeling the pressure. I had big shoes to fill and knew that I was going to do whatever it took and ensure that our team was there contending on the last lap of the 66th running of the Little 500. It was not an easy month, but through countless tough workouts, watching race tape, and daily meetings with the team I felt prepared to help my team win the race in any way possible. Race day was finally here.
Lap 1-50: It was a blistering hot day, not a cloud in the sky. The stands were filled up, crowds were cheering, and an electric buzz filled the air. The scene was set, it was go time. We began the race in the 10th spot. Per usual, Kyle started the race for us. He was nestled in the pack for the first few laps until he made a powerful move before lap 10 on the outside and took the lead. He started us off with a strong set and put John in a good position. All of our first sets were long with John’s first ever Little 500 set and burn looking very strong, putting me in a good position for my first ever set. I could feel my heart beating out of my chest as I prepared for an all-out sprint and mount of my bike. And just like that my first set was over as Aj then took over.
Lap 51-120: This was the part of the race that I do not vividly remember. We were all feeling pretty good, despite the heat, due to our coaching staff and Joe constantly hydrating us and keeping us cool. We maintained solid position within the lead group this whole time. All of our sets were strong and the burns were looking good. After this chunk of the race things began to get interesting.
Lap 121-150: Kyle was on the bike for us, sitting in nicely with the lead group of about 8 teams. Then the hectic energy of a crash ensued and we quickly realized Kyle had been caught in the wreck. Knight was the first one up from the track, and quickly took count of which teams had gone down with him and who as in the lead. He stayed on the bike for the yellow, and quickly regained the position he had lost. After working with teams like Gray Goat and Black Key Bulls, we were back in the race. Fortunately, other strong teams such as Phi Delta Theta and Gray Goat went down as well, so we had teams to work with to catch the pack. Persevering, we ended up catching the pack and sitting in nicely as the pace of the race quickly heated up.
150-170: Shortly after catching the pack, the pace began to heat up. Teams followed our burn, and all of a sudden we were off the back. We kept riding our hearts out and were gaining ground on the lead pack. Knight jumped on around 168, hopped on Phi Delt’s wheel, and worked with them to quickly gain ground on the leaders. As they approached these team quickly, Phi Delt jumped to the inside of Gray Goat, startling their rider and forcing them to rub elbows. This caused Knight to make a slight adjustment, and due to the dry track, lose control of his bike. It was lap 170 and we were suddenly a half lap down.
Lap 171-Finish: Going down for a second time, especially this late in the race was devastating. We were in a great position to catch the lead pack and contend at the end up until that crash. We still managed to ride the last 25 laps hard and secure a 7th place finish. Although not where we wanted to end up, we are all very proud of our efforts considering the circumstances and wrecks we were involved in. I am extremely proud of my teammates for all the hours and hard work they put into training. They also sacrificed a ton of time to teach me so many things and ensure that I was prepared for the race. I could not have asked for a better group of guys to train with and take the track with in April.
I would like to thank you all for your continued support. You are the backbone to this program and what keeps us going. You all provide us with the best opportunities when it comes to training, equipment, and bikes, and for that we are all extremely thankful. This year’s Little 500 was a rollercoaster ride filled with ups and downs. With a solid finish and 3 returning riders next year, we are very optimistic about what 2017 holds in store for Beta Cycling. We look forward to continuing the Beta Cycling tradition and will be certain to make you all proud.