..according to me. As I wind my time down in Bloomington I'll throw a few 'best of' lists from the time that I have lived in town (from mid 2002). Next up are the Male Little 500 riders. There is no precise metric for this list but a mix of success, teamwork, influence etc (and definitely not giving the 2003 race the same weighting). Comment at your leisure.
Notable omissions- Erik Hamilton (Cutters), David Caughlin (Cutters), Jason Fowler (Gafombi/ Cutters), Luke Isenbarger (Corleones)
10- Issac Neff (BKB)
Not a race winner but clearly the fastest rider on the track in 2008 where he won ITTs by the second largest margin of the decade. Unlucky in the race as was taken out early on by a lapped team. 4th in 2007 where he was involved in the infamous ‘Chartier-bump’ on the final lap. Brought BKB to Little 500 where they remain as an annual contender.
Highlight- 2008 series events
Lowlight- 2008 race
9- Chris Vargo (Cutters)
Best rider on the track in 2004 who took the win after the most controversial finish in race history. Supremely confident and as a Bloomingtonite is a Cutter for life. Who knows what might have happened if he had been allowed to ride in 2003…
Highlight- The backstretch of lap 201 in 2004
Lowlight- 2003 Little 500
8- Matt Davis (Phi Gamma Delta)
Always the bridesmaid yet never the bride! Never won an individual event or the main race but had multiple second places as he anchored the FIJI team between 2003- 2005 (including 2nd in ITTs for 3 consecutive years). Beaten in the final sprint by Leukens in 2005 race and interestingly holds the second fastest ITT of all time.
Highlight- Looking good at all times and smashing the Cutters in 2005 Team Pursuit
Lowlight- Meeting an inspired Leukens in the 2005 finale
7- Alex Bishop (Cutters)
Another Cutter discipline who muscled his way to victory as he anchored the Cutters to the first of their current four-race winning streak. Singularly determined to win and once he took the inside line on the final lap of the 2007 race there was only going to be one winner. Swept the series events in 2007 where it often seemed to be a Man amongst boys. Winner of MnO in 2006 where he upset strong favorite Arnesen by using his raw power to get the jump and maintain his advantage to the line.
Highlight- The dominanting sprint win in 2007
Lowlight- The 2006 race
6- John Grant (Beta/Gafombi)
Swept the 2003 L5 season including leading out and winning a 13up sprint for the 2003 race. It was the culmination of a solid L5 career that progressed from Beta to the independent ‘Gafombi’ with whom he won the ITT and race. If this list was from 2002 then surely would have been higher….
Highlight- Winning the 2003 sprint
5- Clayton Feldman (Cutters)
One of the most polarizing L5 riders of the past decade but one fact speaks for itself. Three rings. Anchored the team in 2009 and 2010 where his ability to ride long sets was key in both those victories. No significant individual results but stepped on race day where arguably his greatest moment came in dragging his team back from a half lap down in 2009. It will be a shame if outside factors stop him getting into the HoF. Oft criticized that ‘he would have never won the race without Young’ but is the opposite not also true?
4- Sasha Land (Cutters)
Two-time race winner who finished his 5 year career by anchoring the winning Cutter team in 2008 even after a spring of injury. 9th in ITTs as a freshman but didn’t get to ride in the race, he won ITTs in 2007 and with Alex Bishop made one of the strongest race tandems of the decade. A complete Cutter discipline who was the true bridge between Caughlin/ Bishop to Young/Feldman.
Highlight- Soloing to victory in 2008
Lowlight- Not making the race team in 2004 although if he had then the above highlight wouldn’t have been possible
3- Craig Leukens (Dodds House)
The leader of the Dodds team between 2003-2005 and finished off his HoF L5 career by winning the race by holding off Matt Davis in the eventful 2005 race. As a freshman was 3rd in ITT yet never improved on that performance (3rd another 2 times) and perhaps more notably was the number one nice guy off of the track.
Highlight- The victory salute in 2005
Lowlight- The poor performance in 2004
2- Eric Young (Cutters)
Many commentators feel he is the fastest rider that has even ridden the cinders. Two sprint wins and has yet to be fully tested in the race due to the buffer afforded by Feldman’s riding. He totally embodies the Cutter ethos and it would be a brave man to bet against him getting 3-rings this spring. 3rd in ITTs as a freshman yet was satisfied not miss out on race selection. A lock for the HoF and will, in 2011, attempt to break the ITT record, gain a win in MnO and truly test himself to utterly crush the field in the main event!
Highlight- Winning the race twice in 2010
Lowlight- Not much…maybe crashing in Quals on the way to a sub 30sec lap (even though they still took pole!)
1- Hans Arnesen (Alpha Tau Omega)
Without doubt had the most varied relationship with Little 500. Part of the team that sprinted for the win in 2003 (8th), in 2004 was the only rider in L5 history to cross the line first but NOT win, crashing in the first corner of 2005 and finally in 2006 lapping the field solo in a crazy 10 lap stretch to finally take a long deserved victory. That final feat has been much maligned as it was achieved under the confusion of crashes and yellow flags but remains the greatest accomplishment of the decade. Arnesen06 vs Young11 would be a true battle for the ages!
Highlight- Lapping the field in 2006
Lowlight- The relegation to 2nd in 2004
5 days ago