Keirin began in 1948 in Japan, and is incredibly popular. It is a professional sport and the Japanese gamble millions of Yen a year on the race, just like horse racing in the UK. Somewhat strangely, and in spite of its popularity, Japanese cyclists do not compete at the Olympics. Only in 2000, was Keirin added to the program of the Olympic Games.

Keirin is a track cycling event in which a small group of equally matched cyclists sprint for victory. In the first few laps, the cyclists are paced over 2000 metres by a pedal-moped called a derny. This bike can maintain a constant speed and ensures that there are no shananagans in the bunch before the final lap. This bike leaves the track a few laps before the end, when the speed is at about 50 km/h+. Then the battle for the wheels can really start.

Riders draw lots for the number one position behind the bike, this is an advantage because less energy is required to hold this place, however the following riders can then have the element of surprise over the leader once the bike has swung off. It's very tactical and requires great nerve. Elbows fly and there's plenty of leaning and shoving, so it's certainly a race for tough riders.

In championships, this event is conducted in several rounds. Eliminated riders have the chance to try again in the repechages.

Keirin is dangerous racing and not for the faint hearted. In Athens in 2004 Jamie Staff, of the strong GB sprint squad, was disqualified from the semi-final, yet none of the Keirin specialists could see what he had done wrong. Such is the interpretation of the rules outside of Japan. As current World Champion he will no doubt relish the opportunity to ride against the six top Japanese riders in his rainbow jersey.

Staff is a Keirin specialist having ridden in Japan and being a former International BMX racer he has all the tricks as well a fair amount of power, he said on the World Cup website:

"I think the Keirin event to be held in Manchester will be a great showdown with some of the Worlds best riders. It will be very interesting to see how they (the Japanese) will perform on a wooden indoor track. I think it will definitely be a clash of cultures and tactics! Not to be missed."

Try this for simple explaination: Keirin

Keirin History

At the World Championships in 1977, the sprint final at San Cristobal, Venezuela had a great face off between two Japanese keirin racers, Koichi Nakano and Yorikazu Sugata. Koichi Nakano won the championship and Sugata runner up. Nakano, who was the first Japanese rider to win a Sprint gold medal, was only 21 years old. He then set a new 'Lance-style' record by winning ten consecutive World Sprint victories.

In 1980, Keirin was adopted as an official event of the world championships. After that, the U.C.I. applied to the IOC for the adoption of Keirin as an official Olympic event.

The following year, racers from overseas were invited to Japan for the first 'International Exchange Race'. This 1981 event was held as a demonstration only, and no bets were accepted, but wagers have been taken since the following year and 'International Keirin' was established as a regularly scheduled event.

In October 1982, the first International Keirin Race, for which betting was accepted, was held in Japan and five internationally-renowned riders participated in the race.

Keirin racing became an event at the Olympic Games in 2000 at Sydney, Australia.

President of the Japan Keirin Association (JKA), Mr Kunio Ogawa who are sponsoring the event seems pretty excited:

"The Keirin race is a one of the most exciting competitive sports in Track cycling and we are looking forward to what will be a very special event. We are all really looking forward to the racing at Manchester".

Alan Rushton (Event Director for the UCI Track Cycling World Cup) seems equally delighted

"We’re honoured to be asked to organise this spectacular event for the JKA and the UCI. The event could have gone to any of the World Cup venues and we’re delighted that it will be the Manchester crowd who will be able to see this unique and spectacular race."

Big in Japan - Spectators

By 1995, more than 1.31 billion people had been admitted to Keirin events. In 47 years Japanese Keirin fans had wagered almost 36.1 trillion Yen. In 1995 alone, 22.2 million people paid admission to the 50 Keirin velodromes...(how many in the UK again?) Together with betting-ticket sales of some 1.61 trillion Yen, these figures just show how popular bike racing can be. Approximately 75% of money wagered on Keirin events is returned as pay-outs. Winners' purse, employee salaries and other operating expenses are taken from the remaining 25%, and profits go through the sponsors and the Japan Keirin Association into 'public benefit projects'.

Top venues

Green Dome Maebashi, one of the 50 velodromes, is all-weather type (indoor) velodrome, which was built at Maebashi City in Gunma Prefecture in 1990. 'International Keirin 1990' was held in the Green Dome Maebashi. It took approximately 2 years to build this velodrome at an expense of 19 billion yen it has a track length of 333 meters and a seating Capacity of 20,000. Wow.

The Rules and regulations

The Japan Keirin Association was established in October 1957 to promote fairness and safety in the sport. Its major activities include registration of the racers, officials and bicycles, approval of inspection staff, mediation on behalf and training of competitors and guidance to local chapters of the Pro-cycle Racing Association. Only those persons who pass the examination of qualification to be conducted by the Japan Keirin Association can be duly registered as qualified Keirin competitors.

Pro-cycle Racing Association

Each of the nation's eightregions has its own chapter of the Pro-cycle Racing Association, a body which is empowered by the Sponsor to oversee such matters as Keirin officials, bicycle inspection, program organization and supervision of competitors.

Rider Education and Ranking

Aspiring Keirin racers compete for entrance into Japan's Keirin School. The 10% of applicants fortunate enough to be accepted then undergo a strict almost Sumo-style 15-hour per day, training regime. Those who pass the graduation exams, and are approved by the Japan Keirin Association become eligible for Keirin races. Prospective Keirin competitors must attend the Japan Bicycle Racing School at Shuzenji, in the Izu area, where during this 10-month period of training and study they acquire the academic and practical skills they will need to compete successfully.

Bikes

An interesting quirk of Keirin is that their bikes have to be equipped with Japanese components and frames. Hence Sugino and Shimano are the Keirin rider's favourite drive trains.

Show me the money

These guy's are big stars in Japan and can earn Premiership footballer type salaries. Which might explain why they choose to mainly race in Japan and not ride in the less lucrative World Cups. Competition is tough as applicants for entrance to the school outnumber successful candidates by about 12 to 1, and these applicants are chosen by an entrance examination which takes two forms, one a 'capability test' of practical skills over individual runs of 200 and 1,000 meters and the other an 'aptitude test' designed to allow the candidate lacking bicycle-racing experience to demonstrate whether he has those athletic abilities that will enable him to succeed as a Keirin racer.

Keirin has recently begun to draw on such sports as skating, baseball, track and field, volleyball and soccer for some of its finest new recruits. All students are accommodated in school dormitories. There were, as of December 1995, 4,398 registered Keirin riders in Japan.

Contact: Japan Keirin Association

Nihon Jitenshakaikan Bldg.

9-15, Akasaka, 1-Chome, Minato-Ku, Tokyo, Japan

Phone: 03-3582-3311

Ticket Information

Tickets are now on sale now...

Ticketmaster: Tel 0871 230 2621 www.ticketmaster.co.uk

Ticket prices:

Adults: £18, £14 or £10

Under 16: £9, £7 or £5

Family ticket (2 adults, 2 children): £45

3-day Adult Season: £48

Useful links:

  • World Cup site here
  • Rider index here
  • Easy to follow events guide here