This past weekend marked the annual IU Cycling Club training race. The race is an opportunity for rookie riders to get a taste of what racing is like, and veterans to remember. We left from the Sample Gates at noon, a group of about thirty women from six or so teams. This blog entry was originally going to be all about the race, but I realized I had something more important to share.
I was riding next to the other veteran rider on my team, Lyndi as we headed out of town, the two of us cracking jokes the whole way out. Everyone was chattering, with competitive banter bouncing back and forth between riders and teams. While we would soon be racing, in that moment the community and friendship was more important than being opponents. I made this realization as we were riding back into town, and decided to give you a look inside the “World’s Greatest College Weekend”.
Women from the 2011-12 Cru Cycling Team
It is almost impossible to describe the community surrounding the Women’s Little 500 Race, but I’ll take a stab at it. The ladies that race earn every ounce of respect that is given to them, and it does not come easily. We aren’t the guys whose race is packed to the brim with fans, regardless of the weather. We don’t get remembered in movies, we don’t have as much of the drama. In some ways that suits us (though trust me, any rider you talk to wouldn’t mind more people showing up). In my opinion this is because we don’t race for the drunken fans who’s only knowledge is what they’ve seen on Breaking Away. We race more for our teammates than for ourselves. We race because we want to make it as hard as possible for our opponents to win, if only because then we know they truly deserved it. We race because we love not only the taste of victory but also the pure competition that comes out of it. Our victories and defeats are shared both within our team and the other 32 teams on the track. People who ride Little 500 pour their heart and soul into it more than any other activity on campus.
Although we ride for separate teams the hours spent together on the track create one community. Every rider spends roughly twelve hours a week at the track (I see my teammates more than I see my roommates or my boyfriend) practicing for a one-hour race that is like nothing else in the world. When the green flag falls on race day we will be racing against each other, yes, but we will also be racing in honor of a race that’s history is bigger than any of us can imagine.
Now, trust me this is not what I was thinking while I was killing myself to hang onto the pack on Saturday, nor was it what I was thinking when I was sprinting toward the finish line. At its heart though, this is why I ride, and I am confident enough to say that it is a sentiment shared by many of the riders in the Little 500 community.
This year is the 25th running of the women’s race. 25 years ago the women at IU successfully gained their own race and I am proud to be a part of that tradition and history. At 7:00pm on April 20th I can promise you that I will be taking my place on the track, to race under the lights with some of my best friends.