Known as “The World’s Greatest College Weekend,” Indiana University’s Little 500 is the largest collegiate intramural cycling race in the U.S. (Oh, and Schwinn has made the race bikes for the Little 500 since 2006!)
Taking place at the historic cinder track at Bill Armstrong Stadium in Bloomington, the Little 500 is a timeless tradition that is beloved by fans and riders alike. The men and women who participate in the Little 500 each year train for months in preparation for the springtime race, and alumni of Indiana University anticipate it each year so they can feel the rush of excitement and nostalgia while watching from the stands. Unfortunately due to the pandemic, last year’s Little 500 was canceled. Although this year’s Little 500 race will be a bit different than past years, it will be extra meaningful.
To get an inside look at the Little 500 race and its traditions, we sat down with Daniel Kang to get a first hand account of what it is like to train for the Little 500 and be a part of one of the top cycling teams at IU. Daniel is a sophomore at Indiana University who is a part of the BKB (Black Key Bulls) Cycling team at IU. Read on to hear more from Daniel about his cycling goals, how he first got into cycling, and how his team trains leading up to the race.
Hey Daniel! Tell us a little bit about yourself and your involvement in the Little 500.
I am Daniel Kang, a sophomore majoring in Finance and Economic Consulting at Indiana University. I am originally from Taiwan, but I spent three years of high school in Vermont, where I played basketball and tennis. In the Little 500, I ride for Black Key Bulls Cycling (BKB), an independent team founded in 2006. I started very early on in August of my Freshman year, and the rest is history!
When did you first get into cycling?
Fun fact, I have never ridden a road bike more than three times before college. I decided to join BKB because my current roommate came into college determined to ride for the historic Cutters team. My inner-competitiveness was looking for something to compete in, and the Little 500 attracted me with its popularity at IU, high profile team chemistry, and competitiveness.
Do you have a first memory of biking from your childhood, or any special biking stories from earlier in your life?
Around 4 - 10, I was into mountain biking with my family. In my childhood, there was this long straightaway in the neighborhood with bushes on both sides. I would love to race my friends down the stretch every time, and I do not recall losing, haha.
How did COVID affect your training last year?
When COVID-19 started to spread last year, students were asked to move out from residence halls. Most Little 500 riders stayed; hoping for spring break practices on the track. (Little 500 riders traditionally stay for spring break to practice on the track.)
Fortunately, I was able to make the most out of it. I spent two months in Vermont doing base training and averaged around 250~ 300 miles per week. I also did the infamous L.A.M.B ride, which totaled 110 miles and 11000+ feet of elevation. During that ride, I also climbed the Lincoln gap, “the steepest paved mile in America.”
I went to Taiwan in July and raced in the Taiwan KOM Challenge, a 60+ mile ride with 15000+ ft in elevation. I was top 60 in that race out of 400+ participants and was invited back for the international competition where lots of world tour riders participated. Overall, my summer training was very effective. I was also battling through a long-term injury, but had lots of fun exploring and challenging myself.
How did you feel when you learned that the race was canceled last year?
I was pretty upset about the race cancellation. But I think at that time, nobody knew that Covid was going to become this global pandemic that it is today. More so, I feel sorry for all the Little 500 seniors, especially my team captain Zach and teammate Jay, who all worked so hard throughout the year and didn’t get to shine on race day.
Tell us more about your team and how you work together to train before the race.
Black Key Bulls, unlike the greek teams, is an independent team. Fortunately, we have had a rich tradition of excellence and great riders throughout the years, which keeps us all together like a big family. The team won the race in 2014 & 2017, so we are definitely eyeing that third title. Our team has ten riders, and I am very appreciative to have these awesome teammates who are also my brothers.
BKB trains all year round with our wonderful alumni coach - Maddison. He truly dials in all our personalized training plans and makes sure to push us to our limits while keeping the goal of peaking around Little 500. We do many base miles in the fall with longer intervals, including the iconic Nashville 90 rides and Frontage team races. In the winter, it is arguably the most challenging time of the year as we moved to roller season, where most of our rides are indoor.
However, it is significant for building up to the race because we train on Little 500 bikes and sharpen our spins to get ready for track season. When the weather gets better in the spring, it is the best time of the year where we get to go on the track and show off all our hard work.
It takes a lot of discipline, communication, and commitment to keep each other motivated. Not every workout can be a 10/10, so we make sure to lift each other up and work as a team to achieve our goals. Listening to each other and communicating frequently also helps significantly to address the problems and share the vision.
What are the biggest cycling goals you set for yourself during your time in college?
I have a few cycling goals I would like to accomplish when in college:
- Winning a Little 500 race
- Bringing teammates and friends from Little 500 to Taiwan and ride the KOM route together
- Climb at least 5 more well known hills in the U.S.
- Go on a self-sustained 7+ days road biking trip and get lost (Location unknown)
What is the biggest challenge about being a full-time college student while training for the Little 500?
The hardest part is balancing academics and training. The 12+ hour weeks of riding come after school, which can quickly accumulate mental stress and fatigue. As a college student, I would like to enjoy normal college activities, meet lots of new people, and do exciting things. The willingness to sacrifice, spend hours in the saddle and be disciplined while prioritizing academics makes Little 500 training challenging.
What are you most excited about ahead of your first-ever Little 500? Is there anything that you are nervous about?
Unfortunately, I got in a pretty nasty crash late in the spring, so I will not be racing this year. However, I know that all my teammates have also worked their butts off all year and are well prepared for race day. I will be working as the only student coach in the pit this year due to Covid regulations. I am excited to see the team compete and make sure the riders at rest are well nutritioned and taken care of. Despite there being no fans, I am confident that the atmosphere would still be amazing!
Like I said, I am very confident in my team. You can never predict what would happen during the race, so fingers crossed on no crashes or any unforeseen tragedies.
What will your pre-race routine be on the day of the race?
I’d like to start the day with short yoga practice for race-day routines, a big breakfast with either waffles or pancakes accompanied by maple syrup. Hashbrowns, peanut butter banana coffee smoothies, and breakfast burritos are also musts for me. I’d like to get to the races not too early but right on time for me to go straight to warm-ups. Some Kanye pump-ups are necessities but most importantly, I am a religious follower of motivational speeches, they keep me 100%.
The Little 500 will take place on May 26th, 2021. Check out our interview with another Little 500 rider, Esma Taylor, here.
Viewers can tune in to watch both the Virtual Little 500 Series and the Little 500 race itself at broadcast.iu.edu free of charge.
Schwinn continues to make single-speed bikes, such as the Stites. If you can't make it to the Little 500, who knows — maybe you'll end up starting your own event with one of our fixies!