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Back Home Again In Indiana


By Zachary Woodward

Photos by Bruce Carver,

Every spring in Bloomington, Indiana something special happens. Students and townies, dorms and fraternities, faculty and alumni, Greeks and independents all come together for a bicycle race. But not just any race. You won’t find expensive bikes, pro riders, or flashy sponsorships. There’s no cash prize, and for many riders, no second chance. A years’ worth of sweat and tears comes down to 200 laps around a dirt track on a single speed bike designed half a century ago… this is the Little 500, and we’ve been doing it for 62 years now.

You might have seen the 1987 movie “Breaking Away,” a work of fiction based on a very real event. But it’s just that—fiction. Non-students cannot compete, there’s no cafeteria brawls between Greeks and townies, and you’re certainly not allowed to duct-tape your feet to your pedals during the race... but it makes for a good movie, right? Long before Hollywood tried to capture the magic of “Lil’ Five” students were pouring their heart and soul into the event, and they’ll continue doing so long after people have forgotten about that movie. But really, most people just don’t know the history. Until you’ve seen the blood, the sweat, the off-season training rides, the tears of anguish and the ecstasy of victory you can’t really know. I thought I did, yet this year I was able to see the event through the eyes of someone who was there at the beginning, my unassuming, incredibly nice 81-year old grandmother, Wanda Coats Woodward.