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Indiana University Little 500 - IM
Bloomington, Indiana, USA, April 15, 2005
Dodds House Avoids Crashes For Spring Victory
Huge crash on first lap ends hopes for many teams
By Mark Zalewski in Bloomington, Indiana
The most frequent word Little 500 coaches yell to their riders is "position." Stay near the front and avoid the always inevitable crashes. However, this year's edition of the annual spring race did not even allow the majority of teams to use their coach's advice -- when on the very first turn of the first lap a miscalculation by one rider caused one of the worst crashes in recent Little 500 history. In only a few seconds, nearly twenty-five teams were out of contention for the win.
Surviving this and other problems all day long was the Dodds House team. The residence hall team utilized their good fortune to give their rested sprinter Craig Luekens the perfect opportunity to win the race. The senior rode away from Phi Gamma Delta's (Fiji) Matt Davis in the final two turns to take the win in convincing fashion. "We had a little gap coming on the bike [for the final laps] and I was just trying to stay on Davis' wheel. He's a great ITT'er," Luekens recalled. "But once I had his wheel it worked out perfectly. Davis did a great job but I was able to respond."
"We thought we had it, we were feeling good," said Fiji's Steven Spencer. "But Craig Luekens is an amazing rider... Craig man, he's fast!"
How it unfolded
In most year's fate picks off team after team, lap after lap -- until only a few are around for the end. But this year, fate decided to shake things up early with a horrendous pile-up, involving the majority of the field. Teams scrambled to get their riders back in the race, with mechanics sprinting across the infield with spare bikes. However, once a team is involved in a crash, it is next to impossible to make up the lost ground. And when a contender is involved, the other teams will work hard to keep the pace high to put that team a lap or more down.
This was the situation for the Alpha Tau Omega team, with 2004 Little 500 MVP Hans Arnesen. He was the rider for his team involved in the first crash and it took him and his teammates more than fifty laps to unlap themselves. ""It took us fifty-four laps to catch-up," explained coach Norm Houze. "And those laps in the beginning were so fast, they always are. Once we got back into the race everything was fine, until the last fifty laps."
The other top teams were riding smartly at the front and avoided the mayhem -- but bad luck soon began to strike each. The defending champion Cutters were involved with a small crash when their wheel rubbed with Team Major Taylor, sending both to the cinders. And when you wear the yellow jersey of defending champs, you can guarantee everyone will notice when you have a problem. The other top teams set a blistering pace and soon the Cutters found themselves down a lap.
Cutters rider Greg Buhay explained the mood the team felt after losing a lap and their teammate in the incident. "You kind of go back to the training, use the support of your teammates and you never give up, ever. You put everything you have down on the track, and if that's the best you can do for the day, then that is it. People are looking for you to pull. It was tough when we were down to three guys and you need to conserve energy at points."
Another race favorite, Fiji, endured a mechanical problem with their bike. But thanks to quick action by their mechanic, the loss was minimal, and the team was able to catch the lead pack.
After nearly seventy laps of problems, the race finally settled into a consistent mode. Teams made their exchanges, rested their top riders when possible, and waited for the next incident to occur. Alpha Tau Omega, which had finally regained position in the lead group, began to dictate the pace and make strategic moves. Unfortunately, bad luck struck the team again when another crash sent them back.
Immediately after crashes, the chief steward of the race orders yellow flag condition, which means that riders must slow their pace and maintain the position they had at that moment. No rider is allowed to advance his position when the track is under yellow. But during this long stretch of about six laps of yellow, three teams were observed by race officials to be "creeping," or trying to better their position. The three were Briscoe, LiSiHi and Alpha Tau Omega.
"Up to end, we were in charge," said coach Norm Houze. "We took Hans out to give him about 32 laps of rest before the end, and we would have won the race. But when your other guy gets in a crash, and have to serve a penalty on another lap for creeping... It took out three teams that were together. I don't know what that was about -- [the officials] need to tell them that they were creeping because they can't always see how fast the lead pack is going."
The penalty for the infraction is a five second time penalty, which means the team must come to a complete stop at the start/finish for five seconds -- a punishing blow, especially within the last twenty laps of the race. This further narrowed the amount of teams on the lead lap to three -- Fiji, Dodds House and Delta Upsilon.
Nearing ten laps to go, Delta Upsilon came in for an exchange and Fiji exploited this opportunity. "Right around lap 189, Fiji followed our rider out when he was done -- he was trying to burn out and Fiji followed him and it neutralized the burn out," said DU's Ryan Smith. "I just couldn't grab him coming back."
Into the final ten laps, it was only Fiji and Dodds House together, with DU following 100 meters behind in third. Each team got their sprinters ready for the bike -- Dodds House with Luekens and Fiji with Davis. "I didn't want to take the lead too early, but once it came down to two laps [to go] I knew I wanted the lead when we were going hard," explained Luekens.
"We were trying to breakaway there at the end, and Craig bridged trying to set up the sprint," recalled Davis. "But I was pretty tired from trying to make up that half-lap earlier in the race."
Into the final lap the two were side by side. Then Luekens took the lead with Davis responding in kind. Down the back stretch it was Davis managing a half-bike lead, until Luekens hit the gas nearing turn three. "I didn't know where [Davis] was, I just knew I wasn't going to let up. I knew I didn't have to go full out through the turns, because you can''t pass in the turns -- so I looked good coming out of four."
"I was trying to see if I could get a gap, but I couldn't get one," Davis shrugged. "I tried to come around in turn three, but couldn't do it."
Junior Dodds House rider Kevin Moore summed up the race strategy for the team. "We knew we had to ride up front. I can't believe there was such a big wreck at the beginning -- it took out some major players and they had to do a lot of work. We were pretty much rested all race, so keeping out of that really helped."
Moore also thinks the future looks bright for Dodds House. "We have three guys coming back -- Craig is leaving and that will be a huge loss, but we have guys that are really motivated."
And Luekens could not imagine a better way to end his Little 500 career -- "It's an amazing way to go out. Our team was so strong this year. We did so much work!"
Three Teams Battle for Women's Little 500 Win
Teter comes out on top with strong solo riding
by Mark Zalewski in Bloomington, Indiana
This year's women's Little 500 bicycle race consisted of 32 teams, but only three were in any real contention to win for the majority of the race. Pre-race favorites Kappa Kappa Gamma, Teter and Kappa Alpha Theta moved to the front of the race and took off in the first ten laps. From there it was a see-saw battle among the three until bad luck and strong solo riding by Teter gave the residence hall team the victory.
Even on a sunny day a dark cloud was present over the race. Earlier in the week, a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority was killed in a bad traffic accident in front of the sorority house. Sophomore rider Caroline Andrew said that the loss affected the sorority and the entire race. "She was amazing. She had trained for Little 500 a little and her brother rode [in previous years]. It was tough to get out and ride today, but knowing that she is looking over us... we did it for her."
Kappa Kappa Gamma had a lot to ride for in addition to the memory of their comrade; the team was the defending champion, qualified in the 'pole position' and had won the three event series leading up the race. In all terms it was their race to lose.
Early in the race, the yellow-clad Kappas set a blistering pace, leaving all teams in their wake. Only two other teams, Teter and Theta were able to even stay on the same lap - about a quarter-lap behind. By lap fifteen, it seemed that Kappa was on the way to victory.
However, the Teter women had other plans. A strong effort by the team chipped away at the Kappa lead, with Theta working strong as well. "Yeah, we were worried," said Teter rider Katie Douglas. "But it was still early on. We just time trialed - it's every thing we trained for all year."
In a few laps the three teams were together and remained so for most of the race -- trading the lead each time the other would go in for an exchange. In the last fifteen laps, tragedy struck the Kappa's. Coming in for a normal exchange, Caroline Andrew lost control while dismounting the bike during the hand-off, costing the team valuable time and placing them in third by 200 meters. "It happened so fast, I don't even know what happened," explained Andrew. "I thought my legs were still running but they didn't! (laughs) I just lost it."
This was the turning point in the race everyone was waiting for - and Teter took advantage of it. Putting their heads down, the four Teter women rode off the front and created a small gap back to the Theta team. In reponse, Theta put their strongest rider, senior Liz Milne, on the bike to chase alone. Milne had set the record in the Individual Time Trial held a few weeks earlier, and was again in time trial mode. "The last few laps I was just focused on going as hard as I could trying to catch Teter," said Milne. "It hurt, but you had to just keep going. It was just a fast time trial finish. There was no working with other teams out there."
Teter had their strong rider, Jessica Lindeman, on the bike as well - and she saw the light at the end of the tunnel. "I knew Liz [Milne] was riding strong behind me I felt pretty good just knowing that I was almost done! (laughs) We were a little bit worried in the last laps, because if anyone would be able to bring it back, it would be her. But we had a big enough gap and I just had to ride steady."
Lindeman held Milne off for two laps to take the victory. Theta finished a strong second, and Kappa held on for third.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Mark Zalewski
Men 1 Dodds House 2.03.39 2 Phi Gamma Delta 3 Delta Upsilon 4 Briscoe 5 Alpha Tau Omega 6 Phi Kappa Psi 7 Cutters 8 LiSiHi 9 Acacia 10 Phi Kappa Sigma 11 Chi Phi 12 Phi Sigma Kappa 13 Sigma Pi 14 Forest 15 Cinzano 16 Team Major Taylor 17 Alpha Epsilon Pi 18 Beta Theta Pi 19 Collins 20 Parrothead Cycling 21 Delta Sigma Pi 22 Wright Cycling 23 Achtung 24 Sigma Nu 25 Pi Kappa Alpha 26 Sigma Chi 27 Sigma Alpha Mu 28 Delta Tau Delta 29 Pi Kappa Phi 30 Lambda Chi Alpha 31 Zeta Beta Tau 32 Delta Kappa epsilon 33 Evans Scholars Women
1 Teter 1.08.18 2 Kappa Alpha Theta 3 Kappa Kappa Gamma 4 Bella Veloce 5 Kappa Delta 6 Alpha Phi 7 Roadrunners 8 Alpha Gamma Delta 9 Delta Zeta 10 Cycledelics 11 Athena 12 Delta Gamma 13 Alpha Chi Omega 14 Gamma Phi Beta 15 Chi Omega 16 Zeta Tau Alpha 17 Alpha Kappa Psi 18 Alpha Omicron Pi 19 Alpha Xi Delta 20 Team Stellar 21 Army ROTC 22 Delta Sigma Pi 23 Collins 24 Phi MU 25 Mezcla 26 Speed 27 Team Marshall 28 Pi Beta Phi 29 Sigma Delta Tau 30 Alpha Delta PI 31 Delta Delta Delta 32 Alpha Phi Omega