|Date||Third weekend of April|
|Organiser||Indiana University Student Foundation|
|Race director||Emily Carrico|
|First winner||South Hall Buccaneers (Collins)|
|Most wins||Cutters (15)|
|Most recent||2023: Cutters (15th win)|
|First winner||Willkie Sprint|
|Most wins||Kappa Alpha Theta (8)|
|Most recent||2023: Melanzana (2nd win)|
The Little 500 (also known popularly as the "Little Five"), is a track cycling race held annually during the third weekend of April at Bill Armstrong Stadium on the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. It is attended by more than 25,000 fans.
The race was founded in 1951 by Howdy Wilcox Jr., executive director of the Indiana University Foundation, who modeled the race after the Indianapolis 500 automotive race, which his father had won in 1919. Racers compete in teams of four, racing relay-style for 200 laps (50 mi (80 km)) along a quarter-mile (440 yd (400 m)) cinder track. Thirty-three teams are selected in qualifications trials to compete in the main race. Money raised by the event funds scholarships for working Indiana University students.
The inaugural Women’s Little 500 was held in 1988. Four members of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority completed a qualifications run in the 1987 men’s event on their 3rd and final attempt, but failed to qualify into the field of 33. In 1988, the IU Student Foundation launched the Women's Race. Thirty-one teams competed in the first Women's Race which was won by an all-freshman team, Willkie Sprint, representing Willkie Residential Hall. Kappa Alpha Theta has been the most successful Women's Team, qualifying for every race, winning eight times with an average finish of 3.1.
The 2020 Men's and Women's Little 500 races were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The race returned in 2021 but no spectators were allowed in the stadium due to Monroe County's and Indiana University's COVID guidelines. Fans were allowed back to Bill Armstrong stadium for the 2022 races.
Events surrounding the race
Billed as "The World's Greatest College Weekend," the race has expanded into a week of activities. The Women's Little 500 (100 laps; 25 mi (40 km)), first held in 1988, is run each year. Other events such as the Little Fifty Running Relay Race and Alumni Races add to the festivities. During his run for presidency, then-senator Barack Obama made an unannounced visit to the Little 500 women's race in 2008. As of 2019[update], the Little 500 has raised a total of more than $2 million in scholarship funds.
Special rules for the Little 500 race include:
- All riders must use the official Little 500 bike that is provided to them for that year. There can be no toe clips or grips, kick stands, water bottles, air pumps, untaped or unplugged handlebars, or any other add-on accessories.
- For the safety of all riders, hard helmets must be worn and buckled at all times, as well as biking gloves.
- Each team is required to complete 10 exchanges (five for the women) during the course of the race.
- At the 198th lap (98th for the women), all riders not on the lead lap will be asked to move to the back or exit the pack. This is done so that all teams in contention on their last two laps can make their attempt to win the race. Teams which do not comply with this rule are believed to be impeding the progress of another rider and will be given a 5- to 20-second penalty or even disqualification, depending on the severity of the violation.
Little 500 bikes
Little 500 bikes are identical, single-speed (46x18), coaster brake racing bicycles with 700c wheels, 32mm tires and flat rubber pedals. The unusual specification originated with the famous AMF Roadmaster bicycles of the 1960s and 1970s, once the sole bicycle type used in the event. The men's and women's version differs only in frame size. Every year a new version of the specified bicycle type is purchased, with two given to each team. A deposit of $400 must be placed for both bikes. At the end of the season, teams are given the option to keep their race bikes or to return them to IUSF in exchange for their deposit. Returned former race bikes are kept at the track and rented out to teams that lack bicycles meeting Little 500 specifications.
Several criteria must be met by a student who desires to participate as a rider in the Little 500:
- The student must be a full-time undergraduate student enrolled at Indiana University Bloomington Campus during the fall and spring semesters of the year of participation.
- The student must have a cumulative GPA of 2.00 or better.
- The student may only compete up to four times in a five-year period.
- The student must be an amateur.
- No substance abuse of any type is tolerated.
- For a team to be eligible, at least one member must attend all race information meetings and turn in the final four cards with the names of the team's riders for that year.
Following the release of Breaking Away, a real-life Cutters team was formed. Their first race was in 1984, which they won. They are students, who are traditionally either Bloomington locals or at the very least non-Greek, and have been tremendously successful, winning fifteen races that they have entered, with an average finish of 3.7, all while never finishing worse than 12th.
The Little 500 includes four events beside the race itself: Qualifications, ITTs, Miss-N-Out, and Team Pursuit. These events are collectively known as "The Spring Series". The team that wins The Spring Series is also awarded a white jersey to wear during that year's race. These events also ensure that all the members of a team, not just those competing in the actual race itself, can still participate and compete.
Qualifications, commonly known as "Quals," is the first and one of the most important series events. Qualifications is a four-lap race around the track to see which team can get the fastest cumulative time. These times determine if a team qualifies to race in Little Five and, if so, where in the field of the top 33 teams they will be placed. Teams start the race lined up in 11 rows of three, starting with the pole winner up front on the inside, and teams choose their pits and jerseys in the order in which they qualify, so this is another reason to qualify high. Each team is given three attempts to qualify. The reason for this is in case a team botches an exchange, then they still have two more chances to qualify. The way that a team can fault on an exchange is if a member falls and takes the bike down with him, or if the team does not perform the exchange in the given distance, marked by white lines on the track. A team can use as many as four riders or as few as two riders. But whatever number of riders they use to qualify is the fewest riders they can use for Little Five. Meaning that if a team qualifies with four people, then that team must race with four people. But if they qualify using only three people, then they can use three or four people on the day of Little Five. The team that qualifies on the pole is given a green jersey for the race.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 qualifications were cancelled. The starting grid was determined by the results of the Team Pursuit Spring Series Event, with eventual winners, JETBLACH on pole for the Men's race and Alpha Xi Delta on pole for the Women's race.
Like a qualification, an Individual Time Trial (ITT) is a four-lap (one mile) sprint around the track. But unlike qualifications, it is performed individually. It is a test of both speed and sprint endurance. There are up to four riders on the track at a time. One rider is placed at each turn of the track. The riders line up with the start/finish line that is drawn in white on the track. Then a race official will come behind the rider and hold the bike steady so that the rider can set both feet on the pedals. In recent years, there has been a five-beep countdown, but in 2007 a gun start was used. The riders begin from a dead stop and race around the track. It is possible to catch other riders on the track while racing, but it is important not to draft. A rider caught blatantly drafting off of another rider is automatically disqualified.
ITTs All-Time Record:
Men’s: 2005 Hans Arnesen (Alpha Tau Omega) - 02:15.78
Women’s: 2018 Brooke Hannon (Melanzana) - 02:33.083
ITTs 2023 Winners:
Men's: Gavin Goode (Black Key Bulls) - 2:24.91
Women's: Jenna Rodgers (Alpha Chi Omega) - 2:47.28
In the Miss-N-Out event, there are heats of 5 to 8 riders, depending on the number of riders signed up for the day. Riders start on a line and are given one lap to get the position they want and to gain some speed. Once they cross the start line again, the race begins. The riders race around the track and every time the pack crosses the start/finish line, the last one to cross is out and must leave the track. Riders keep racing until there are only three riders left. These three riders move on to the next round. This process continues until the final heat of eight. In this heat, riders continue to race and get out until the last three remain and then they commence a one-lap full-out sprint and the first-, second- and third-place winners are determined by the order in which the riders cross the finish line.
2023 Miss-N-Outs were cancelled due to poor weather.
In an event geared more towards the team rather than the individual, two teams of four race around the track in a pace line for 15 laps (3.75 mi) for the men and 10 laps for the women, each team in hot pursuit of the other since they start on opposite ends of the track. One person per team may drop out of the pace line during the race, but three team members must finish. The team's time is the time of the 3rd rider to cross the line. The final heat sees the two fastest teams race head-to-head.
Team Pursuit All-Time Record:
Men’s: 1986 Cutters - 08:38.81
Women’s: 2011 Teter - 07:50.11
Team Pursuit 2023 Winners:
Indiana University Student Foundation, as well as Riders Council, a group of students that make up the rules committee for the race, also offer fall events for students to participate in. They also offer skills clinics. Events in the Fall Series include ITTs, Street Sprints, CycloCross and Tuesday Night Race Series. Fall Series results do not count toward Little 500.
Tuesday Night Race Series
Each night is broken up into three events. Scratch races, in which the men will compete ten laps and the women eight. Points Races, in which points are awarded every five laps of a predetermined overall number of laps. The top four riders on the ‘points lap’ receive points: 5, 3, 2, and 1 for 1st through 4th. The winner is the one with the most points at the end of the race. The men ride twenty laps and the women ride fifteen. The third event consists of Miss-N-Out Heats.
The events of the Little 500 were dramatized in the 1979 Academy Award-winning movie Breaking Away, which depicts a group of Bloomington townies who enter the race as the "Cutters" (from the local Indiana limestone stonecutters) and defeat the favored fraternity teams. Thirty years later, in 2009, Smithville produced a half-hour-long documentary, Ride Fast, Turn Left, that followed four teams preparing for and competing in the race. In February 2015, One Day in April was released which depicts two men's and two women's teams' preparation and dedication preceding the race.
Highlights of the 1981 race were shown on ESPN and the first major coverage was by CBS Sports Saturday for the 1982 race. CBS's auto racing announcer, Ken Squier called the race, with Dave Blase providing color commentary. The races have also been broadcast live on the Indiana University student radio station WIUX and on television since 2002 on AXS.tv (formerly known as HDNet), which is owned by Indiana University alumnus Mark Cuban.
List of winners
|2022||Phi Delta Theta|
|2017||Black Key Bulls|
|2016||Delta Tau Delta|
|2015||Sigma Phi Epsilon|
|2014||Black Key Bulls|
|2013||Beta Theta Pi|
|2012||Delta Tau Delta|
|2006||Alpha Tau Omega|
|2001||Phi Delta Theta|
|1999||Sigma Phi Epsilon|
|1996||Phi Delta Theta|
|1995||Phi Gamma Delta|
|1987||Phi Gamma Delta|
|1985||Alpha Epsilon Pi|
|1982||Phi Delta Theta|
|1978||Phi Kappa Psi|
|1975||Phi Gamma Delta|
|1971||Alpha Tau Omega|
|1970||Sigma Phi Epsilon|
|1969||Alpha Tau Omega|
|1968||Phi Kappa Psi|
|1967||Phi Gamma Delta|
|1966||Phi Kappa Psi|
|1965||Phi Gamma Delta|
|1964||Beta Theta Pi|
|1963||Sigma Alpha Epsilon|
|1962||Phi Kappa Psi|
|1960||Phi Kappa Psi|
|1959||Phi Kappa Psi|
|1958||Phi Kappa Psi|
|1956||Phi Gamma Delta|
|1955||South Cottage Grove|
|1953||North Hall Friars|
|1952||North Hall Friars (Collins)|
|1951||South Hall Buccaneers (Collins)|
|2018||Kappa Alpha Theta|
|2017||Kappa Alpha Theta|
|2015||Kappa Alpha Theta|
|2014||Kappa Alpha Theta|
|2009||Pi Beta Phi|
|2006||Kappa Kappa Gamma|
|2004||Kappa Kappa Gamma|
|2003||Kappa Alpha Theta|
|2000||Kappa Alpha Theta|
|1999||Kappa Kappa Gamma|
|1998||Kappa Kappa Gamma|
|1996||Kappa Kappa Gamma|
|1995||Kappa Alpha Theta|
|1994||Kappa Alpha Theta|
- "Welcome, race fans!". indiana.edu. Indiana University Student Foundation, Indiana University. Archived from the original on March 15, 2016. Retrieved July 21, 2018.
- "The Little 500 women's race: Historical results and records". Indiana Daily Student. Retrieved 2023-04-21.
- "After fan-less 2021, dark horses ready to challenge women's Little 500 favorites".
- dtquinn (April 11, 2008). "Barack Obama at Indiana University's Little 500". ireport.cnn.com. Bloomington, Indiana: CNN. Retrieved July 21, 2018.
- Roach, Amanda (2019-03-26). "Cutters, SKI earn pole positions in 2019 Little 500 races in Bloomington". Indiana University Newsroom. Retrieved 2019-07-04.
- Monkieon, Biz (April 21, 2012). "Indiana's Little 500: The World's Greatest College Weekend". crasstalk.com. Retrieved July 21, 2018.
- "Twenty-two teams qualify for women's Little 500 on Saturday, Kappa Alpha Theta secures pole position".
- "Men's cycling teams compete in first Little 500 qualification rounds since 2019".
- Cuban, Mark (April 16, 2012). "Mark Cuban Talks About the Little 500 Tradition". IUAA Videos. Archived from the original on 2021-12-12. Retrieved July 21, 2018 – via YouTube.
- "Little 500 Winners: Male". indiana.edu. Indiana University Student Foundation, Indiana University. Retrieved 2018-04-23.
- "Little 500 Winners: Female". indiana.edu. Indiana University Student Foundation, Indiana University. Retrieved 2018-04-23.