For a team built through miracles, faith was their only answer
The story of Chi Alpha Ministry's Little 500 team and what unites them
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Jon Frazier can still feel the spots on his face where rocks from Russell Road are embedded into his skin. He is lucky to be sitting on the swing of his front porch with only scratches from a fall that nearly took his life three weeks prior.
The crash came on a Tuesday when Frazier has to log solo rides because of his class schedule. He’s grown to enjoy them — a few hours alone on the bike clears his mind.
A Christian man at heart, Frazier wasn’t always connected with his faith. He realized he wasn’t living the kind of lifestyle he wanted to live, but found peace with his faith after attending Spring Hill, a Christian retreat, in August 2020. Three years later, Frazier is now the captain of the Chi Alpha Ministry’s cycling team.
But this ride put everything that he’d worked for in jeopardy, and nearly stole thousands of hours of cycling in a second. A downhill, 35-mile-per-hour fall straight into the guard railing left him covered in blood, dirt, and gravel from the road.
His backpack, Acer computer, white water bottle, phone, and a bottle of Local Hive honey were scattered in the middle of the highway. What was left of his bike hung off the guard rail 10 yards ahead, mangled into something useless.
He laid down for a moment, praying to God, full of joy.
“I just really felt the Lord kind of come over me and, just like say, ‘I'm here.’”
The Chi Alpha Cycling Team is a miracle. Everything that has gone into this year’s race — the riders, training, equipment, all of it — is straight from God’s grace, according to Frazier. He can recall too many moments where he didn’t think he’d have a team to lead for his final race.
Frazier knew long before last year’s Little 500 that it could be the end of Chi Alpha’s four-year run. As the only junior on the team, the writing was on the wall.
“We had a dude who had a career-ending injury a few months before the race,” he said. “We had no money in the bank account. We had sold out for the race.”
The only thing he could rely on was his faith. After many sleepless nights, he wondered if it was time for him to start to transition into being more active in the ministry. What if the cycling, for him, was over?
Chris Anderson, the team’s head coach, was moving out of town. Frazier was the only rider left on the roster. He made announcements, hosted call-outs, and asked anyone close to the ministry if they were interested. All came up empty. They were dead broke and out of luck.
God, if this is supposed to keep going, I’m asking for a miracle. Because I can’t do this...
Then, his prayers were answered.
Seconds after finishing the 2022 Men’s Little 500, hunched over and out of breath, Frazier could barely focus on anything. One of the team’s lap counters approached. Barely able to concentrate, Frazier heard faint but important words.
“I’m quitting the wrestling team at IU and I’m going to ride bikes with you guys.”
His name? Sean Grim.
Grim had been around wrestling for as long as he can remember. The son of a former wrestler at Ohio State University, he has always been influenced by his father. He started wrestling in second grade and committed to IU in 2019.
After three seasons, Grim started to rethink his decision. He struggled with continuing to find a love for the sport. The program became demanding. Some wrestlers left; others were told to leave. Grim, knowing that he was no longer as invested as he once was, decided to start looking elsewhere. He called his family and coaches later that night and told them his decision.
After one indoor practice, Grim was hooked. Frazier didn’t know what that one practice would lead to, but neither did Grim. Wrestling had always been a part of his identity, something that was easy to relate to everything in his life. He decided that he needed a change and Chi Alpha came into his life at just the right time.
“I really admired his passion for cycling,” Grim said. “What brought me to Chi Alpha was Jon.”
However, Grim wasn’t the only one who discovered a love for cycling on that day.
Spencer Puett had never seen the Little 500 during his first two years in Bloomington. The 2020 race was canceled due to the pandemic and the 2021 race took place with no fans in the stands, so the 2022 Little 500 was Puett’s first time experiencing the real spectacle.
He had been a member of the Chi Alpha Ministry since his first semester of college. Puett usually brushed off Anderson’s pitches to join his team, but Anderson was persistent anyway.
Puett grew up playing baseball and hockey and fell in love with competition at a young age. He started ice skating when he was three years old and played hockey for the first time when he was six. After high school, Puett joined the Indiana Club Baseball team as a pitcher and played his freshman and junior seasons.
But something was missing. He felt that baseball and his faith were two separate, but important, parts of his identity. He had grown up playing on the diamond; it represented much more than just a game. It’s where he met his friends, spent his weekends playing, and made core memories.
Five days after the race was the last Chi Alpha worship before the academic year ended. Inspired by the race, Puett listened to Anderson and expressed interest in the cycling team. Anderson laid out the logistics of the team; but more importantly, he explained their mission.
It was at this moment that Puett knew he wanted to bike.
“In that moment I really felt my heart was like, ‘Dang, this is something you're built to do, this could just be such a cool experience, such an awesome way to finish out college,’” he said.
Puett sat down with Anderson at the Soma Coffee House a few days before he was leaving for the summer. He committed.
When Frazier, Grim and Puett returned to Bloomington in August, their four-man cycling team had just three riders. One veteran, one converted wrestler and one converted baseball player. They were one short.
August and September passed by with no luck. At this point in the year, the team was in trouble; cyclists train for the Little 500 year-round, so having a fourth rider who wasn’t going through the training program would help the team less and less. But, what the team didn’t know was that they wouldn’t have to worry about this; the final piece to their puzzle came from another team training for the same race.
Ryan Lo was a sophomore rider on the Black Key Bulls Cycling Team. Winners of the Men’s Little 500 as recent as 2014 and 2017, the team is built on championships. Lo did not race the Little 500 for the team in 2022 but trained with them for the length of the season.
When Lo returned to the team in August 2022, he never thought he’d leave. He had just spent an entire season training with some of his best friends. Everything was in place for Lo to succeed. But, this all changed in just a few months. Lo had been a part of the Chi Alpha Ministry since he was a freshman in 2020. He attended worship and was an active member of the ministry, all while being a part of a cycling team separate from it.
Lo was attracted to Chi Alpha because their mission resonated with him. He made a promise to himself that if the ministry fielded a cycling team, he would join it. However, this wasn’t as easy as he once thought. He was already on a very competitive cycling team and was in line to race. Through influence from Puett, who shares a Stadium Crossing home with him, and the ministry, Lo decided to join the Chi Alpha Cycling team in October 2022.
“BKB [Black Key Bulls] stands for winning, winning championships and being the best competitor you can be,” Lo said. “Chi Alpha is like that too but it takes it to a higher level. And what's the higher level? It's the faith aspect.”
Together, this group joined Frazier because of the mission of Chi Alpha Cycling. Faith is what this team is built on. Among their differences, faith is what unites them.
“If you look at each of our stories,” Frazier said, “the way we got here is a miracle.”
Chris Anderson went to his first Little Five bike auction with the intention of leaving with bikes for a cycling team. Instead, he left with a few half-built Little Five bikes that weren’t functional.
He had no prior coaching experience, no training plan, limited funding, nobody willing to ride, and not even a single bike in his inventory.
If he wanted a cycling team, he’d have to do it from scratch.
Anderson first recruited riders for the Chi Alpha Ministry in 2018 but saw little interest. Even the students who committed to the team often found that cycling was not something they wanted to do. He had no leads.
Though Anderson didn’t have much, he did have a vision. He wanted to model the team similarly to his college soccer team: through fellowship and competition.
Anderson played at Cedarville University, which is a private Baptist university. His team had goals, but Anderson said that those aspirations took a backseat to their real mission — using their talents to glorify the Lord. He envisioned implementing this same mission when creating the Chi Alpha Cycling Team five years ago.
“Guys that hold each other accountable, not just on the bike,” Anderson said. “But in terms of stewardship.”
With this in mind, he wanted riders who were sold on his team’s mission. To this day, Anderson still recruits riders with this in mind. Chi Alpha Cycling is different; in their eyes, they’ve already won. Not the race itself, but eternal life with Jesus Christ.
“Chi Alpha in Greek X-A, it stands for Christ ambassadors,” Anderson said. “And so we see ourselves as being Christ's ambassadors on the track by being the best representation of what a follower can be.”
Anderson wanted to see how his team could make a difference. They found that all it takes is one conversation at the track, a pat on the back, or picking someone up when they’re down.
He was amazed he was able to stand.
Laying there on Russell Road, rocks splintered into his skin, Frazier collected himself.
When he made his way over to gather his belongings, a trucker stopped on the shoulder of the road. He told Frazier that he had what it takes to fix his bike. After some time, the trucker finished repairing his bike so that he could start the long trip back home.
Despite immense back pain and blood covering his legs, Frazier made the seven-mile ride back home in one piece. After his teammate forced him to visit the ER, the doctors performed a CT scan and an X-ray. Everything came back clean.
“You’re just lucky,” the doctor told him.
Three months later, he wasn’t. Frazier crashed again. This time, with 37 laps left in the Little 500.
Frazier flew over his handlebars and straight into the black gravel on the track. Two cyclists hit tires that caused a crash directly in front of him. Upon impact, he tore the ACL and PCL in his left knee.
Amid a cloud of dust, he struggled to find his No. 14 state bike. After finding the “4” that was missing from his bike, Frazier climbed back on. With no sign of the yellow flag, which instructs the riders to stop racing due to a crash, he continued for two more laps.
Because of the wreck, Chi Alpha moved half of a lap behind the lead pack. There wasn’t much time for error. Eventually, each rider moved the team up closer and closer to the front.
And at lap 191, Frazier got on the bike for good.
As the final lap began, the contenders started making their push. So did Frazier. The whole race would be decided in a matter of minutes.
A long year of training. No money. No coach in town. Three rookie riders. Fourteenth in qualifications. A race day crash.
And somehow, some way, it was here — the final stretch, everything this team had worked for.
As Frazier sprinted down the final stretch, he prayed.
“The Lord was with me,” Frazier said later. “My body wasn’t there, but my spirit was.”