Some people reading this might admit to being old enough to have watched the 1979 sleeper hit, Breaking Away. This Oscar-winning film’s plot is based on the Little 500 bicycle race held annually at Indiana University in Bloomington.
Even if you’re not old enough to recall viewing this film (really?), you can experience it first-hand this weekend when the Little 500 runs its 65th event.
The Little 500 mimics the nearby Indianapolis 500, which is run each Memorial Day weekend. There are 33 teams for the Little 500, just like there are 33 drivers for the motor race. The race in the film was actually staged on the IU campus. Other scenes from the film took place on the campus as well.
One major difference between the two is that it is a relay race with 4 riders making up a team. The Little 500 is not 500 miles, but 200 laps around the quarter mile track of Bill Armstrong Stadium in Bloomington. That’s for the Men’s race on Saturday at 2pm (200 laps equal 50 miles).
The Women’s Little 500 takes place on Friday, April 24 at 4pm. The length for their race is 100 laps or 25 miles.
Not just anybody can register to race. Only students and student-led organizations can qualify. They cannot be professional cyclists and they have to log a certain number of riding miles prior to the qualification date. The Little 500 is one of the largest IU student activities for which athletes must train all year.
Even the bikes are special. Every rider must use the same type of bike—single speed and issued through the IU Student Foundation which sponsors the race. The bikes are put together by the riders from kits using only the materials provided. They can't be souped up for speed.
The best thing about the race – besides the fresh air, excitement of 25,000 fans and thrill of the race itself – is that it is an opportunity for the riders to give back to the student community.
Through financial support raised from registration and ticket sales for the Little 500, the Indiana University Student Foundation provides funds for many students with financial needs. Since the race began in 1951, more than $1 million has been given away.
The race is typically run, no matter the weather. So dress for success in Indiana – that means layers, possibly a poncho – and head to the IU main campus to catch some fun-spirited competition. Bring sunglasses as well and remember to stay hydrated.
This is a family-friendly event and one that should be on every Hoosier’s bucket list.
Note: IU is a alcohol-free campus.
Tickets are available at Ticketmaster or on site. General admission: $30. Children age 12 and under: $14.50.
If attending the race makes you nostalgic, copies of the movie Breaking Away are sold in the campus gift shop.
For more information about Little 500 go to the race’s official website http://iusf.indiana.edu/ or