There’s a lot more to the “World’s Greatest College Weekend” than the weeklong official events that take place in April. Riders competing in the race spend close to a year training and strengthening to qualify and race.
Many teams hire coaches to help train their racers and focus on things such as intervals, exchanges, and track etiquette in the months leading up to Little 500. In speaking with Delta Zeta student coach Jenna Disser, I found out what it takes for a team to train for this event.
IUSC: When do you start training and finalizing a team for Little 500?
Disser: If you want to be in the top ten at qualifications, you need to start training almost after the (previous year’s) race ends. We definitely need to determine our racers before the end of the school year so that they can begin training during the summer. We need to set that in stone early so we can figure out where to begin and what needs to be done.IUSC: What’s your training schedule like during the school year?
Disser: We generally split up our weeks into hard weeks and then easy weeks. Hard weeks consist of riding 5 or 6 days a week while lifting to build muscle on off days. As the race gets closer we start having twice-daily workouts and the riders only get one day of rest. During easy weeks we work on things that are less physically challenging such as exchanges.
IUSC: What specifically do you work on during hard weeks?
Disser: We spend most of that time doing longer, harder sets. We do more sprints with little rest and we work on hill intervals. Our coach will also give us a certain time that we need to complete exercises by and from there we determine what we need to spend more time focusing on.
IUSC: How do rookie riders prepare for the race?
Disser: All rookie riders need to participate in the rookie week, which is a nine-day mandatory program for all first-time riders. In those nine days, only rookies are allowed on the track and they learn things such as exchanges, pack riding, and track etiquette. In the end, all riders need to take a written test to demonstrate what they’ve learned.
This is all to try to decrease the number of accidents that happen on the track and to make rookies more comfortable without the veteran riders getting in their way. The rookie week is taught by a rider’s council that is made up of the best riders from all of the teams.
IUSC: What’s the hardest part about training for you?
Disser: That would probably be “burnouts”. Burnouts are when you sprint as hard as you can. We need to practice this because during the race when we do exchanges we need to sprint out ahead of the pack so that the new rider can be on pace with the pack when she gets on the bike.
IUSC: How does your training change in the weeks before the race?
Disser: We begin tapering and leveling off as soon as we get close to the race to make sure our riders are fresh for the race. In the week right before, our riders do not train that hard because we need to make sure they aren’t tired from any hard workouts. On the night before the race our riders meet for about an hour with our coach, we have a team dinner and then the team stays in a hotel to maintain focus. We’ll spend the night drinking lots of water, stretching, and doing things to relax. Lastly, in the morning before the race we’ll spin our legs to warm up but nothing too strenuous.