To most of the world, Keirin was largely an unknown cycling sport popular in Japan until it received a lot of publicity during the 2000 Olympics. In fact, for many in Japan, Keirin is synonymous with cycling.
Keirin is a type bicycle sprint race that usually involves six two nine competitors over a distance of two kilometers on a track. As the race begins, the cyclists have to stay behind a motorized bicycle called a derny that sets the pace. The speed of the race gradually increases until the speed is about 50 kilometers per hour (about 18.6 miles per hour). At that point, there is 600 to 700 meters left to go in the race. A bell sounds, the derny leaves the track, and the cyclists sprint the remainder of the way reaching speeds of 70 kilometers per hour (about 43 miles per hour).
Keirin is very popular in Japan where it is a sport where wagers are placed by people trying to anticipate the winning cyclist. In Japan, all the cycles used in Keirin are required to have been made in Japan. This is to promote the Japanese bicycle industry.
Keirin is traditionally a male oriented sport. It’s been reported that the Japanese made efforts to get women involved, but they were largely unimpressed by the way losing gamblers conduct themselves after the race. There are women who are Keirin fans; however, it’s just that most of them don’t attend the events. Now that Keirin is gaining international acclaim, the Japanese are going to have to learn to deal with intense foreign competition, especially in the Olympics.