Cycling News

‘The perfect underdogs’ – How Willkie Sprint made history winning the first women’s Little 500

The cover of Hellmuth

Kerry Hellmuth made history in 1988 as a member of the first team, Willkie Sprint, to win the women’s Little 500. Remember “Breaking Away”, the award-winning movie (an Oscar for best screenplay) about a men’s bicycle race on the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington? The local ‘townie’ team, The Cutters, were the underdogs and rose to glory. Hellmuth recounts how her all-freshman group went from “scrappy, ragtag team” to “rock-star status on campus” and became “the perfect underdogs” for women.

Hellmuth penned the coming-of-age story about this one year in college life that was much more than learning to stay upright on rollers and how to make a bike exchange in a relay. Her book explains the uphill challenge for women at that time with the slow progress of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act that was passed in the US just a decade before, when women gained access to the same benefits as men at federally-funded schools, including educational and athletic programmes. 

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