Apr 16, 2009

TP preview

The final spring series event of the Little 500 Spring Season is Team Pursuit. After a LeMans style start 3 or 4 riders complete 12 (women) or 15 (men) laps of the track with a teams time being taken when the third rider crosses the finish line. This final point is critical as many a strong challenge has been derailed by two strong riders blowing up their slower team-mate(s) and subsequently having to wait for them. Team cohesion is key! Each heat has two teams who start in turns 2 and 4 and IUSF attempts to evenly match the teams so that catching the opposing team is a real challenge. The heats run from 3.30pm to 9.00pm and the two fastest teams return for final at the end of the evening (9.20pm). Many people might argue that 3rd position is the true winner as your team shows it has great form but yet doesn’t have to ride again!
Arguably the most intriguing Womens heat is that which sees Teter and Wing-it matchup (7:18pm). This could be a microcosm of the real Little 500 as Wing-it will have the challenge of managing Kristi Hewitt’s clear strength whilst keeping the rest of the team together. The strategy that they employ could be informative as to their plans for April 24th.
Other exciting heats feature KD vs DSP (6:54p) and KKG vs Army Women (8:06p). The latter had the best team performances in ITTs and yet are viewed very much as dark horses for the main event. Qualifications and ITTs showed that their riders have great speed but TP will give a better idea as to their team strength and whether they’ll be competing for the big win next weekend. The fastest heat of the day might well be DG vs Theta (7:42p). These two teams ride 4 deep and it would not be a surprise if the final was a reprise of this heat. DG as defending Little 500 champs are well known and will clearly compete for the win again this year. For what it’s worth your author expects DG to be in the final of TP with Theta, DSP, or Teter trying and falling to take the 2009 title from them!

DG looking fine in '09!

Men’s TP will likely see the final confirmation that FIJI are back as a force in Little500. There is pressure on this team as this year is the last chance for it to keep its record of having won the big race in each decade. It’s fair to say that this team of one senior, two sophomores and freshman phenom David Ellis has come out of no-where to be clear leaders in the white jersey competition (awarded to the best spring series team). It would be fitting if TP sees a true renaissance for FIJI as last year was arguably the nadir of their proud team history. Matched up against 3rd street rival Acacia, the lead two riders of FIJI left their third rider behind, were lapped by Acacia, and were roundly mocked by the Acacia supporters in the bleachers. Honestly it was a pathetic performance! However this year the team appears to have its shit together and TP will be the first true test of their team unity. FIJI faces an underrated Gray Goat Cycling (7:06p) in what should be a keenly contested heat.
Other exciting heats have pole setters Phi Delts against Cutters (7:30p). Phi Delts are riding four deep but the Cutters arguably have two stronger riders in Eric Young and Clayton Feldman so the pressure will be on third rider ‘Patch’ Schroeder to hang on the wheels and make it to the end! The Cutters have a strong tradition in this event and set the TP record in 1986 with an astonishing 8m38.81s . Look for Phi Psi (Brown, Mercer) and Delta Tau Delta (Maves, Neibler) and GGS (the Keilers) to come close to the final but your author expects to see the Black Key Bulls face FIJI in the final. BKB are built as a solid TTing team so this event should be right in their wheelhouse. Thus far they appear to lack a true sprint finisher and their strength in the main event will come from their ability to keep the pace constantly high so TP should suit them well.
I’d encourage anyone to come out and spectate on Saturday evening. When Team Pursuit is done well it is a joy to watch and yet there is the ever-present possibility of an unfortunate crash or a complete team meltdown which in their own way are just as compelling to watch!

After winning in 2008, Cutters will find it tricky to be repeat champions.

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