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Ryan Piurek
IU Media Relations

George Vlahakis
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Wednesday, April 9, 2003

Hometown news: IU students compete in Little 500 bike race

EDITORS: Indiana University's Little 500 bicycle race began 53 years ago as a way to raise scholarship money for working students. It has been the subject of an Academy Award-winning film and numerous news reports and sports broadcasts. Today, it is the premier intramural collegiate cycling event in the nation.

IU students from your communities are competing in this year's men's and women's races and are available to talk with you for feature stories.

A special Web site has been prepared that provides contact information on every race participant and publication-quality photographs available for downloading to accompany your stories. (Please credit photographer Brian Kleber.) The site is at

Also available for interviews about the race and how students intensely train to compete is a past rider, Alex Ihnen, who today is IU Student Foundation assistant director and Little 500 coordinator. He can be reached at 812-855-9152 or

This year, the race will be presented in high-definition television by HDNet, which is distributed by DirectTV and Charter to their HDTV subscribers.

In addition to the excitement of the competition, the race has raised more than $1 million in scholarship money for working IU students. Last year, all proceeds from the race were used to create three new 9-11 scholarships, established with the support of three IU students who lost parents in the attack on the World Trade Center. However, through years of changing trends, the purpose of the event remains the same -- "helping those who help themselves."

Information is available from George Vlahakis and Ryan Piurek in IU Media Relations (contact information is included elsewhere in this release). A credentials request form for media wishing to cover race activities will be distributed on April 16. Call 812-855-3911 to request a copy.

About the Little 500

The race was created by the late Howard S. "Howdy" Wilcox, who patterned it after the Indianapolis 500, which his father had won in 1919. He was inspired by a bicycle race he saw involving students racing around a dormitory, with several women leaning out of windows and cheering them on. He convened the IU Student Foundation, told them what he had seen and proposed the Little 500 as a means of raising scholarship money for students working their way through college. The first race was held in 1951.

The Oscar-winning motion picture Breaking Away brought moviegoers from all over the world to Bloomington and the excitement of the Little 500. This national exposure caused CBS and ESPN to show the race on live and taped television. Celebrities such as Bob Hope, David Letterman, Fuzzy Zoeller, John Mellencamp and world champion cyclist Lance Armstrong have drawn the national spotlight with them when they come to Bloomington to enjoy the festivities. Thousands of students who have experienced the excitement of the race return with their families to enjoy the Little 500 tradition.

This year's Little 500 events

Little 500 race activities began on March 29 with qualifications. Thirty-three teams qualified for the men's race and 31 teams qualified for the women's race. In advance of the main races, preliminary competitions are held including Miss-n-Out (April 5), Team Pursuit (April 10) and a new feature, the Little Fifty Running Race (April 13).

Now in its 16th year, the women's Little 500 will be April 25 at 4 p.m. CDT. The Roadrunners, an independent team, will defend its 2002 victory at Bill Armstrong Stadium. Since 1988, more than 1,100 women have ridden in the race.

On April 26 at 2 p.m., riders for Phi Gamma Delta fraternity will try to win the men's race from their pole position. Since its beginnings 50 years ago, more than 6,500 men have ridden in the Little 500.

Public tickets for the Little 500 races are available at any TicketMaster location or through the IU Student Foundation Web site at For more ticket information, call 812-855-RACE.