sometimes you have to stop and smell the chamois butter

Thursday, January 20, 2011

breaking away/little indy 500 - t.i.c.h.

Breaking Away is without a doubt one of the best cycling movies of all time.  I saw it for the first time when I was in high school.  I was chubby, pimply and incredibly enamored with all things cycling.  The scene where Dave Stoller gets in the draft of an 18-wheeler and hits 55 mph before the truck gets pulled by the man, was the coolest thing I had ever seen.  Then there was the scene of Dave hanging with the big Italian team until one of them sticks a pump in his wheel,  and reality set in.  This movie was about much more than cycling.  It was about life and the hardships of growing up.
Dave has a tight little group of homies who are called "Cutters" by the college boys.  Cyril, who is the tall, lanky accident prone one.  Mike, the studly rebel with a good heart buried way down.  Moocher is a small dude who doesn't take shit from anyone.  They all come from similar backgrounds, in that someone in their family was a stone cutter.  Together they wander the streets of Bloomington, picking fights with college boys and swimming in the quarry.  Dave rides his bike everywhere and drives his parents crazy by listening to Italian opera and speaking Italian to them.  He even plays and Italian exchange student to try and lure away the hot girl of the film from her jock boyfriend.  He succeeds for a little while, but then he comes clean and she beats his ass.  The gang starts to crack apart when Mooch announces he is getting married.  Then they find out Cyril is gonna go to college.  Mike is pissed because he seems like the only one with no direction.  Dave himself is considering college.
Then the Little Indy 500 bike race date is approaching.  The boys register as the Cutter's,  hoping this one-last-hurrah will give them pride and bring them closer together.  Knowing that Dave can crush it,they  hope they can rely on that to get themselves some "cred" in town.  Dave gets pissed at some point in the training and walks out.  Then at the last minute he comes to, and the race is on.  Things are going well until Dave eats shit.  They're up against the fence and their lead is dwindling.  They are all cooked and in a last ditch effort Dave gets pissed and has them tape him to his bike.  He gets the eye of the tiger and blows the pants off of the college boys at the line.  What a bitchin' finish!
I could go on for hours about this movie.  The cast did a phenomenal job with the story and I don't think they could have chosen better actors for each part.

Now it turns out that the Little Indy 500 is a big deal on it's on.  The brainchild of Howard S. "Howdy" Wilcox, the Little Indy's first running was announced on January 20, 1951.  It seems as though Howdy was inspired by a 6-day track event near his home.  Being the executive director of Indiana University Foundation,  he was always looking for ways to raise money and a bike race seemed like a great idea.  He put it in the books and it went off with May 12, 1951 with great success.  All of the proceeds go to a fund for working I.U. students.
The race was modeled after the Indy 500 auto race which Wilcox's father had participated in and won in 1919.  Racer's compete in teams of four, in a relay style event that is 200 laps on a quater mile long cinder track.  Thirty-three teams are selected in qualifications trials to compete in the main race.
Special rules for the Little 500 race include:
  1. 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.
  2. For the safety of all riders, hard helmets must be worn and buckled at all times, as well as biking gloves.
  3. Each team is required to complete 10 exchanges (5 for the women) during the course of the race.
  4. 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 2 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 are rather unusual. They are identical, single-speed (46x18), coaster brake racing bicycles with 700c wheels, 28mm 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. There are two different versions of the bike for men and women, with the only difference being frame size. Every year a new version of the specified bicycle type is purchased, with two given to each team. A deposit of $300 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 back to IUSF in exchange for their deposit. Returned former race bikes are kept at the track and rented out to those teams that lack bicycles meeting Little 500 specifications.
A student desiring to participate as a rider in the Little 500...
  1. Must be a full-time undergraduate student enrolled at Indiana University Bloomington Campus during the fall and spring semesters of the year of participation.
  2. Must have a cumulative GPA of 2.00 or better
  3. May only compete up to four times in a five-year period
  4. Must be an amateur
  5. No substance abuse of any type is tolerated. No one enforces this policy, but if caught, the student will not only have to deal with the consequences imposed by the university, but the team will also forfeit its eligibility in the race.
  6. 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.
The Little 500 is much more than just the race. There are also several series events associated with the race. These events are held for a few reasons. The first and foremost is for fun. The second reason is so that teams can scout out the competition and get a feel for that year's race field. And the final reason is so that all the members of a team, not just those competing in the actual race itself, can still participate and compete. There are four other series events outside of the race: Qualifications, ITTs, Miss-N-Out, and Team Pursuit.
 The race is still going on to this day with the same rules and regulations.  Very Cool!
Thanks to Indiana U. and Wikipedia for some of that info.


  1. not just one of the best cycling movies, but one of the best sports movies of all time! nominated for five oscars and winning for best writing, screenplay in 1980

  2. Did I ever tell you about the year my ex (also named Tim!) and I went to the Little 500 so he could be the pit mechanic and I could watch? The Cutters won that year! It was awesome.