Little 500 notebook: Cutters are the only team

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The Cutters Little 500 bicycle team gather, in a socially distant way, at Bill Armstrong Stadium to hang out for a bit on Saturday, April 25, when the 70th running of the race had been scheduled. It was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

The 70th edition of the Little 500 would have be run today at Bill Armstrong Stadium in Bloomington, Indiana. But it was cancelled over a month ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic, like so many other events across the country.

The storied bicycle race this year would have featured an attempt by one team to win the 50-mile race for its third year in a row, and a total of 15 times.

That team is the Cutters, led by seniors Noble Guyon, William Huibregtse, and Patrick Coulter.

“It’s the only team,” Robert Harman laughed, standing on one end of the track on Saturday, as he uncrossed the arms of a sweatshirt draped over his shoulders to reveal a “Cutters” T-shirt.

I had asked the 74-year-old Harman if he was a coach of one of the teams. He was, to be clear, not a coach per se, more like the teams’s great uncle, Harman said. He’s been around as a supporting figure since the team’s 1984 winning debut, he said.

Up to that point Cutters were a fictionalized team, introduced in the 1979 film “Breaking Away.” Harman had arrived in Bloomington from Aberdeen, Scotland, in time to have seen the filming of the movie here in Bloomington. But when he was asked if he wanted to be in the production, he took a pass.

I headed over the the track on Saturday afternoon, because I figured maybe some of the teams would want to take a ceremonial lap. I thought maybe they’d want to commemorate the months of training and preparation that went into the cancelled race by pedaling a symbolic circuit.

The track was empty of any riders. And it stayed that way for the time I was there. But Harman pointed to the far end of the oval where a small group of people were gathered. It was the three Cutters seniors with coaches Jim Kirkham and Jason Fowler.

For each of the last two years, Guyon was on the bike for the final lap and won the sprint for the Cutters. He told me they wouldn’t be riding any symbolic laps. They were just there to hang out for a while.

Kirkham said he figured anything short of an actual race would still leave an empty feeling.

As the Cutters and their extended family soaked up their moment at the stadium on Saturday, the hour approached 2 o’clock, the scheduled start time. The Indiana University fight song did not crescendo through the stadium. But the patter of spitting sprinkles on my umbrella turned to the louder pounding of full drops.

The only team getting drenched at Bill Armstrong Stadium on Saturday was the Cutters. Go ahead and mark them down as winners.

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