In college towns across Indiana, spring colors include the bright jerseys of determined-looking bike riders thronging the streets.
An annual spring cycling event on the Indiana University-Bloomington campus that began as a fundraiser for working college students has gained national renown thanks to the beloved 1979 film Breaking Away . Inspired by the Indianapolis 500 car race, Bloomington’s Little 500 has, in turn, spun off similar traditions at other universities in the Hoosier State.
Just five years after IU’s first Little Five, DePauw University in Greencastle hosted its own bike race in 1956. The inaugural DePauw Little Five Hundred featured 14 teams pedaling 30 miles around the East College building. The event was moved indoors to the Blackstock Stadium the following year.
As he did for the first Little Five at Bloomington, Indianapolis Speedway owner Tony Hulman started the race in its first few runnings at Greencastle. Since then, faculty and women’s events have been added to the roster of activities.
During Spring Week on the Indiana State University campus in Terre Haute, coed mixed pairs have been competing on tandem bikes since 1970. In Bloomington, the Mini 500 Trike Race was added to the Little Five line-up in 1955; ISU’s cycling traditions include a parallel. The Sycamore Cup Tricycle Derby, in which participants of both sexes pedal custom-made three-wheelers, has been part of ISU’s fall Homecoming festivities since 1963.
IU’s Little Five Hundred has come to be known not only as the nation’s premier intramural collegiate cycling event, but has raised over 1.4 million dollars in scholarship funds since its inception.