Men's Little 500
Cutters overcome crash to capture 5th-straight win
As Eric Young looked over his right shoulder, he saw Phi Delta Theta go in for an exchange.
It was a Lap 199. It was the move the Cutter had been waiting for.
The four-year Cutters rider sprinted the final three turns to win the 61st running of the men’s Little 500, earning his team its fifth-straight victory — a feat no other team in Little 500 history has accomplished.
“My last set I was tired,” Young said. “It was just about marking people and staying with them. Phi Delt was attacking pretty good. On the last set, they exchanged, and I knew it was over once they did that.”
The exchange was an opportunity Young said he thought he would never have. Just 45 laps into the 200-lap race, the defending champions found their rookie rider Kevin Depasse in a wreck after a Sigma Nu rider knocked his handle bars.
The Cutters found themselves in a rare position — battling from behind to get to the front of the pack.
A majority of the crowd cheered. Once the Cutters recovered, they found themselves a lap down to Phi Delta Theta, the race leaders.
Phi Delts finished second in the 2010 race. It was senior Phi Delts Steve Sharp, Chris West and Sven Gartner’s last shot at the Borg-Warner trophy, and they spent the next 154 laps defending their position at the front.
However, the legs of a whole team pulled the Cutters out of their one-lap deficit.
“We just were kind of patient, tried to not get too uptight, just got from there and just take it a bit at a time,” senior Cutter Zach Lusk said. “It just shows you it’s a crazy race. Anybody can crash. Anything can happen. Luckily it happened early, so we had a lot of time to catch up.”
By lap 175, 130 laps after the wreck, the Cutters were back on the lead lap and pulled to the front.
Young, whose eligibility was questioned by other riders because of his affiliation with a pro team, got on the bike. He was set to pedal the final 10 laps of one of the most storied Little 500 careers.
At lap 195, Phi Delts went in for an exchange in their pit near turn one.
It could have been Young’s chance to break away, but instead he stopped pedaling. He waited until Phi Delts made a clean exchange. They pulled in front of Young for the lead around the track. Young drafted on their bike tire for two laps until the Phi Delts went in for another exchange. It was his second chance to pull away. Young chose to stop pedaling again.
He rode two more laps on the back tire of the Phi Delts. Then on Lap 199, Phi Delts shocked Bill Armstrong Stadium when they went in for an exchange. This time, Young raised himself off his seat and pumped his legs, creating a gap between him and the Phi Delt exchange.
“We’ve done it before,” West said of the exchange. “We were hoping it would work, but it didn’t.”
Young raced the final three turns with no competition, pedaling to his team’s 12th title in its 27-year existence.
“We were just trying to hold him off,” West said of Young’s attack. “It was tough. It was essentially us on the front a lot of the time. It was just hard to hold him off. He’s a great rider.”
Young crossed the finish line on the cinder track at Bill Armstrong Stadium for the final time in his Little 500 racing career.
It wasn’t the exact way he expected the race to be won, but comparing the last two victories, Young said this year’s race was better.
“It’s everything,” he said. “Getting lapped and un-lapping yourself. Five years of winning in a row. It being my last year ... I didn’t expect us to get a lap down but I also didn’t expect us to get a lap back either. ... It came down to a race of who was the strongest team. I knew we could do it.”
After the race, Young announced he will turn pro Wednesday. He will join the BISSELL Pro Cycling Team.
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