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Last modified: Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Little 500 tradition pedals ahead at IU Bloomington

April 11, 2006

Little 500 bicycle race photo

2005 Little 500 bicycle race at Indiana University.

Print-Quality Photo

Editors: A credentials request form for media wishing to cover race activities also will be distributed today (April 11). IU students from your communities are competing in this year's men's and women's bicycle races and are available to talk with you for feature stories. A spreadsheet with state/country, home city, e-mail address and other information for all riders participating in this year's Little 500 is available at

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Every April since 1951, the Little 500 at Indiana University has marked the beginning of spring and the coming end of another academic year. This year is no different as the men's and women's bicycle races are scheduled for April 21-22 (Friday-Saturday), with the women riding at 4 p.m. on Friday and the men at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Both races will take place in Bill Armstrong Stadium, located off Fee Lane, just north of its intersection with 17th Street.

The races are patterned after the Indianapolis 500 with 33 teams lining up for the start in 11 rows of three. Start positions are determined by qualifying times, with the fastest team nabbing the pole. As many as four riders can compete on a team. When one rider on a team is tired, he or she exchanges the bicycle with a teammate. The women's race is 25 miles -- 100 laps on a quarter-mile cinder track. The men's race is 50 miles -- 200 laps on the same track. All competitors ride one-speed Roadmaster bicycles.

Any full-time undergraduate student at IU Bloomington can ride in the Little 500, and most riders have never competed in any other cycling race.

The women's race

Nineteen years ago, IU women rode in their first official two-wheeled Little 500 bike race and have thoroughly established themselves as part of the larger Little 500 tradition. Still, this year's women's race will be historic -- it is the first to compete with a full field of 33 teams.

"The women's Little 500 has stood on its own as a strong event for several years, but getting that final team in the field adds a key piece of legitimacy," said John Schwarb, a 1996 IU graduate and author of the book The Little 500: The Story of the World's Greatest College Weekend (IU Press, 1999).

"The heart of the Little 500 from its inception was those 33 teams in 11 rows of three. It's impossible to imagine a men's race without that, and for years until now, it was tough to picture a women's race with that," Schwarb added. "The women's race endured growing pains that the men's never had ... Having 33 this year is an accomplishment, and one that will now be expected."

When the women's race began in 1988, 31 teams turned out for qualifications, so all made the field. While most years the qualifying women's teams have numbered around 30 or 31, the lowest number of teams to compete was 22 in 1991.

For this year's women's Little 500, Kappa Delta edged out Alpha Phi for the pole during March 25 qualifications. Kappa Delta finished the 2005 race in fourth place and Alpha Phi finished sixth. The winner of the 2005 race was Teter Quad with a time of 1:08:18.

The men's race

Thirty-three men's teams take the track on Saturday to compete in the premier intramural collegiate cycling event in the nation -- the 56th running of the men's Little 500.

During March 25 qualifications, the Cutters team claimed the pole for this year's race with Phi Kappa Psi in the second position. Cutters finished seventh in last year's race and Phi Kappa Psi finished sixth. Dodds House won the 2005 race in a time of 2:09:51.

Once again, both races will be presented nationally in high-definition television by HDNet. A hour-long highlights show will be presented at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 23, on WISH-TV Channel 8 in Indianapolis.


The Little 500 bicycle race began in 1951 as a way to raise scholarship money for working students. To date, the event has raised over $1 million for working students. The race also has been the subject of an Academy Award-winning film, Breaking Away, and numerous news reports, magazine features and sports broadcasts.

The late Howard S. "Howdy" Wilcox, whose father won the Indianapolis 500 in 1919, started the event after he saw an informal bicycle race involving students racing around a dormitory, with several women leaning out of windows and cheering them on. Wilcox approached IU Student Foundation administrators and proposed the Little 500 as a means of raising scholarship money for students working their way through college.


Tickets for Little 500 races are $20 for adults and $5 for children aged 12 and under. Single-event adult tickets are $10 for the women's race and $15 for the men's race. They are available through, at all Ticketmaster locations -- including the IU Auditorium Box Office -- and the Indiana Memorial Union Student Activities Desk. Go to for more information.