|Racing on my new Kalavinka bike|
My first keirin racing session was held at the KeioKaku Velodrome in Tokyo, Japan. The Japan style of Keirin racing is very different to the International style of Keirin racing, so I knew this first session was going to be a lot about learning and adapting my own keirin race, so that I could win.
|Lining up before the qualifying race, Yukari to the right of me|
My first race was ok, my second race - not so good, and in the final I placed 3rd behind Yukari (a Japan Girls Keirin rider) in 1st place, and Kaarle McCulloch (Olympic Bronze medalist) in 2nd. Yukari won all of her races over the weekend, so she has proved to be one to beat.
|The dive for the line, I am in blue and placed 3rd - so very close|
Although a few mistakes were made in the first two days, I was able to learn from them and put them behind me without making the same mistake twice. Hence, the best thing about the weekend was that I improved throughout the session and was able to display my best performance in the final when it counted most. Over the weekend the amount of bets were over 2.5 times the usual amount placed on the Girls keirin! Normally 7000 bets, this time there were 20,000.
Why is the Japan keirin so unique?
When we go into a Japan Keirin racing session we are in lock down. No phone, No laptop, no contact with the outside world for 4 days. This is so that we have absolutely no way of getting involved in the gambling side of keirin racing. Which I must admit, was scary at times when you have spectators shouting terrible things at you when you have a bad race. The Keirin girls at the session were very welcoming, loved having us there and I really enjoyed getting to know them. Often they would ask if they could buy me a drink or ice cream after racing, and were always offering to help out. When I first arrived, I realized I had forgotten my towel and within 3 minutes, one of the girls, Riko, had unbeknown to me, strolled down the corridor to the shop to buy me a very cool Keirin towel to use. This was such a kind gesture and by the end of the session Riko and I had become very good friends. Riko is 19 years old and has earned $100,000 NZD in the past 6 months from being among the top 3 keirin riders here in the Japan Girls keirin.
|Some of the Keirin Girls at the Velodrome. Here I am beside Riko, my new friend :)|
Here is a little insight on what I saw go on inside the velodrome:
- A LOT of sleeping. They sleep all morning because we are racing in the evening.
- Only 20 minutes training allowed each day at a designated time for each athlete. Making sure everybody is equal.
- Shining of their bikes every day.
- The japan keirin riders finish their warm ups 1 hour prior to racing - A little different to ours which finish about 15 minutes before racing.
- Copious amounts of liniment oil being rubbed on legs before races.
- Salt being thrown over their bikes for luck.
- Large gears being ridden.
- Lots of media fixated on Kaarle and me, being the international girls riders.
- Angry/ aggressive spectators and gamblers on the outside of the track fence.
- Very large meals supplied by the Velodrome host.
- Plenty of chocolates, donuts and other sweets being eaten between meals.
- Men smoking and drinking alcohol before and after racing inside the velodrome.
- Many people rushing to take your bike, helmet and gloves from you after your race - a lovely Japanese keirin tradition.
- Lots of fun/ laughter and enjoyment within the Girls Keirin racing scene.
|Kaarle and my welcoming to the Girls Keirin|
My next race is Wednesday week, which I am really looking forward too!
I hope everyone is making the most of the hot weather back home in NZ, very jealous!!