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The keirin is a mass start track cycling event in which 6 to 9 sprinters compete at one time in a race with a paced-start. Riders draw lots to determine starting positions and start as the pacer (which could be a motorcycle, a derny, or a tandem bicycle, for example) approaches. The riders are required to remain behind the pacer, which starts at the deliberately slow speed of about 25 km/h, gradually increasing in speed and leaves the track approximately 600-700 meters before the end, at a speed of about 50 km/h. The first cyclist to finish the race is the winner (sometimes finishing at 70 km/h). Keirin races are about 2 kilometers in length (8 laps on a 250m track, 6 laps on a 333m track, and 5 laps on a 400m track).

In competitions, this event is often conducted in several rounds in order to reduce the number of competitors to one "final" round of 6-9 riders. Eliminated cyclists may get the opportunity try again in the repechages.

Keirin began in 1948 in Japan, and has become very popular there as a betting sport. In 1957, the Japanese Keirin Association was founded to establish a uniform system of standards for the sport in Japan. Japanese cyclists do not usually feature in the medal contenders for this event at international championships, largely due to the fact that the Japanese keirin circuit is more lucrative and prestigious for the Japanese than are competitions such as the world championships and the Olympic Games. Koichi Nakano was one of the first Japanese keirin riders to compete outside Japan.

Aspiring professional keirin riders in Japan compete for entrance into the Japan Keirin School. The 10 per cent of applicants who are accepted then undergo a strict, 15-hours per day, training regime. Those who pass the graduation exams, and are approved by the Nihon Jitensha Shinkokai become eligible for professional keirin races in Japan.
Japanese Keirin Race








Japanese Keirin Race Closeup