When it comes to sports with fast, extreme speeds, most people are probably thinking about things like NASCAR, Formula-One or Rally Car racing. While these are some exciting spectator sports, we feel that in honor of the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics, we would share some information about one of the fastest, most exhilarating sports from the games, keirin.
Essentially, keirin is a high-speed cycling race where the contestants initially ride in a pace line, at a gradually increasing speed before the entire race turns into a chaotic sprint for first place. The catch is that all the contestants are riding fixed-gear bicycles without brakes.
The start of a keirin race sees a motorbike pull in front of the contestants before the racers take off and fall into a line behind it. With each passing lap, the motorbike increases speed and essentially sets the pace for the racers behind. Towards the end, the motorbike will peel off the track and the contestants begin sprinting for victory. Given the high speeds at which keirin contestants reach, often times over 40 miles per hour on a bicycle, and the fact that no one has brakes, crashes are common and often times destructive.
Like any high-level competition, different contestants have different strengths and weaknesses that they play to. Aside from the extreme levels of endurance required to compete at the highest levels, some racers may be better sprinters than others or better blockers. A sprinter may prefer to stay towards the back of the pace line and attack once the motorbike peels away from the track. On the other hand, a blocker may prefer to get ahead in the pace line from the start and ride defensively at the end. Either way, any keirin racer looking at competing in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games will have to bring their A-game if they want to take home the gold.