For about 170 laps or so of the 67th Men’s Little 500 nobody seamed overly eager to make a winning move.
The pace was slowed by multiple cautions. The pack was about 14 teams deep. Everyone seemed content at just riding things out to set the table for what could have been one of the largest sprints the race has seen.
Then Black Key Bulls said enough. Someone had to make a move, so it might as well have been “The People’s Champs.”
“Why would you not try?” said Charlie Hammon post race
BKB broke away from the field with about 25 laps to go and built a straightaway’s worth of lead it never gave up in similar fashion to Kappa Alpha Theta the day before. The common thread between the women’s and men’s champion? Coach Ryan Knapp, who is believed to be the first coach to ever win both races in the same year.
“We were just watching each other waiting for someone to make a move,” BKB rider Kevin Mangel said. “When it happened, it happened.”
Black Key Bulls, from eighth starting spot, won in just less than two hours and 14 minutes time ahead of Gray Goat and Cutters. The two teams on the lower steps of the podium attempted to bridge the gap together late but ultimately didn’t have enough legs to catch up.
“Nobody was pulling through,” Gray Goat rider Thomas Torbik said. “Nobody really wanted to do a lot of the work, and I think that was because there wasn’t really anybody super favored to win the race. I think everyone saved, and nobody took full advantage until the end.”
Gray Goat was one of the pleasant surprises of the race, having moved from 15th starting spot to second. The veteran team featured 11 races of experience.
“I’m just so proud of this team,” Torbik said. “We knew that (BKB) was going to have a decent shot either way if they went for a sprint or pulled out like they did. We just couldn’t hold their wheel for very long.”
BKB’s move was planned well before the start of the race. Hammon said there was a threshold number that they were eying to pounce at and ultimately liked what they saw from the other teams when they made their move.
What helped was that the pack was as bunched together as it was. Loose cinders in Turns 3 and 4 sparked a handful of crashes and stymied any chance of a few teams working together to break into a smaller pack.
That was fine by BKB. Sprint or no sprint, the trophy is still the same.
“There’s no words to describe what it feels like to get that win for them, that win for us,” Hammon said. “It’s a special group.”
The championship is Black Key Bulls’ second in four years. They previously won after surviving a crash of lead riders coming to the white flag in 2014.
There was less drama this go around.
Same result, though.
“It’s not just us on the bike, it’s everyone on the team,” Mangel said. “Everyone from all the nine riders to the parents, all the friends, all the family. It’s more than just us four that made this championship.”
1. Black Key Bulls
2. Gray Goat
4. Beta Theta Pi
5. Sigma Alpha Epsilon
7. Sigma Chi
8. Sigma Phi Epsilon
9. Phi Gamma Delta
11. Forest Cycling
12. Delta Chi
13. Lambda Chi Alpha
14. CSF Cycling
15. Pi Kappa Alpha
16. Kappa Sigma
19. Pi Lambda Phi
20. Phi Sigma Kappa
21. Delta Sigma Pi
22. Phi Delta Theta
23. Alpha Sigma Phi
24. Sigma Nu
25. Alpha Epsilon Pi
26. Theta Chi
27. Black Ice Cycling
28. Beta Sigma Psi
29. Tau Kappa Epsilon
30. Evans Scholars
31. Young Life Cycling
32. Sigma Pi
33. Sigma Alpha Mu