Predictions for the 2015 women’s Little 500

Just like last year, I’ll give my picks for the top 5 finishers. I’m also adding in my predictions for All-Star riders and rookies of the year, as well as the Dixie Highway winner.

My pick last year, the first year I picked the women’s race, finished second (Teter). I didn’t think a fairly young Kappa Alpha Theta team had enough to get past the veteran Teter team. This year, I’m taking a now experienced, and arguably even deeper Theta team, to repeat.

Theta flat out looked better than everyone else in the spring series. The one event they faltered in slightly was Team Pursuit, where they failed to make the final. But they have by far the best rider in the field in Liz Lieberman, and there’s plenty of speed behind her with Abby Rogers, Evelyn Malcomb and Madeline Lambert. Lieberman and Rogers have the experience. They were champions last year, they know what it takes. There’s a good coaching staff in place with Theta, and I think they’ll employ the right strategy to set up another victory. It’ll be interesting to see if Theta makes a move to try to jump out in front of the field, or if it’s content to sit in and wait for a sprint finish. Either way, I like Lieberman and Co. to cross the finish line first Friday.

Once you get past Theta, I really think it’s a toss up for the rest of the top five. There’s several quality teams in the field with fast riders. I’m guessing there will be a bit of a pack, certainly, so it’s really anyone’s guess where exactly these teams fall in, but I think we should expect to see all these teams in it somewhere at the end.

My top 5:

1 Kappa Alpha Theta

2 Ski

3 Delta Gamma

4 Alpha Chi Omega

5 Teter

Darkhorses: Melanzana, Phi Mu, Phoenix Cycling

Ski showed it’s a team to be reckoned with by winning Team Pursuit. Add the fact that they return three of their riders and have one of the best riders in the field in Megan Huibregtse, and you have one of the strongest teams in the field. They rode near the top last year, finishing seventh. This year, I expect them to improve on that, coming up just short in the end as Theta pulls away.

Delta Gamma rebuilt a bit last year, and it’s no doubt ready to contend this year. Kristen Bignal has shown she’s a top rider in the field, and rookie Sarah Rivich also appears to have a bright future.

Alpha Chi Omega has a good 1-2 punch in Sydney Schreiber and Alexandra Kolar. Both are experienced, fast riders. Their race smarts and speed should keep AChiO near the front all race long.

Despite not having the best showing in spring series, it’s impossible to count out Teter. Ashton DeHahn and Julia Thomas are two veteran riders, and no matter what, Teter always comes through with a strong performance on race day. They’ll have to work their way up, though, starting 18th. They’ll want to try to avoid the common early crashes that happen in the back of the field.

Melanzana is starting on the pole, and has the most experienced team in the field. Experience is king in the race, so don’t count them out. Phi Mu has two senior leaders in Jackie Kober and Gretchen Mann who should challenge all day. Phoenix Cycling will rely heavily on Tabitha Sherwood, but she’s a good rider to lean on, arguably the second best individual in the field behind Lieberman.

All Stars

Liz Lieberman, Kappa Alpha Theta

Megan Huibregtse, Ski

Kristen Bignal, Delta Gamma

Tabitha Sherwood, Phoenix Cycling

Julia Thomas, Teter

Fallon Lilly, Melanzana

Abby Rogers, Kappa Alpha Theta

Syndey Schreiber, Alpha Chi Omega

Rookies of the Year

Evelyn Malcomb, Kappa Alpha Theta

Sarah Rivich, Delta Gamma

Ali Oppel, Alpha Omicron Pi

Brooke Hannon, CSF

Dixie Highway Winner

Teter

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