• 08-26-2004
    My Dog Wally
    Motorbike in Olympic track cycling
    I saw my first track cycling event during Wednesday's Olympic coverage. Can someone explain:

    1. why a motorbike paces the group?
    2. why the motorcycle drops away after 5-1/2 laps?
    3. why the race needs to be 8 laps if the riders can't do anything for 5-1/2 laps?

    Thanks in advance.
  • 08-26-2004
    Mike T.
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by My Dog Wally
    I saw my first track cycling event during Wednesday's Olympic coverage. Can someone explain:

    1. why a motorbike paces the group?
    2. why the motorcycle drops away after 5-1/2 laps?
    3. why the race needs to be 8 laps if the riders can't do anything for 5-1/2 laps?

    Thanks in advance.


    What you saw was the Keirin. This is a traditional race from Japan which has a mega-following in that country and is the root of major track betting like horse racing. Keirin racers are nurtured just like Sumo wrestlers are. They grow up in the system and the top guys (Nakano was the best) are like gods and very rich.

    Top sprinters from around the world are sometimes invited to join the circuit. Keirin has now been accepted as an Olympic event and also at the world championships level. American Marty Nothstein has won the world championships as has Canadian Gord Singleton.

    There is one difference though to the Keirin you're seeing and the one in Japan - over there the group is paced by another cyclist who peels off when top speed is reached.

    The motor bikes you see are Dernys - very popular in European track racing as they have many fully paced races and even world championships too. Dernys have a pedalling system which allows fine tuning of the pace.

    Then there is another motor paced event which we will never see over here - Demi-Fond which uses much larger and more specialized motor bikes. The driver stands erect on foot trays and a rear roller prevents the racer from contact with the bike. Speeds are much greater and the bicylces (and riders!) are very specialized too.

    I can't answer the finer points of your post. Keirin is what it is. If it wasn't Keirin it would just be an 8-lap scratch race.

    I'll answer this one -

    3. why the race needs to be 8 laps if the riders can't do anything for 5-1/2 laps?

    Sure they do. They get up to full speed and are quite welcome to jockey for what they would consider perfect position. Keirin is well known as a contact sport and sometimes there is much bumping and pushing and almost always hi-speed crashes. It's not a sport for the faint hearted.