: a track racing
discipline of Japanese origin consisting of a short (around 2 km) race for 6 to 8 riders. In the international version (adopted as a world championship event in the early 1990s and as an Olympic
discipline in 2000) riders take a standing start, and take position behind a pacing rider (either on a derny
, an electrically assisted bicycle) who starts at 25 kph and accelerates steadily to 45 kph before peeling off the track with about 6-700 metres to go for the final sprint. The riders may not pass the pacing motor, so there is a lot of fairly rough competition for position as the pace winds up; crashes are not rare - in the 2001 world championship final the bronze medal was won by a rider who crossed the line on foot after carrying the remains of his bike for the best part of a lap with a broken collar-bone. It is generally ridden as a supplementary event by riders who specialise in the sprint
and the kilometre time trial
The original Japanese version is somewhat different; it is a traditional betting sport, reputedly with considerable Yakuza influence, mainly run on big, old, flat concrete tracks rather than modern steply banked wood velodromes; riders are trained in keirin schools based on the same lines as the sumo system. (As a result there are, in fact, more professional racing cyclists in Japan than in the rest of the world put together.) The pacer rides a normal bike and the riders (who wear traditional colours depending on the starting position they draw) start from starting gates similar to those used for horse racing (international keirin riders are just held up by an official as in other races where the start is deemed non-critical). Until recently foreigners have been shunned, but in the last decade a select number of gaijin sprinters have been invited over for a lucrative season - but with keirin school discipline - during the European winter.