Japanese coup for Manchester

anchester's Track World Cup meeting (January 7-9) receives a huge boost with the news that six of J

anchester's Track World Cup meeting (January 7-9) receives a huge boost with the news that six of J
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE With premier-league level salaries, a huge fan base and celebrity status usually more associated with the likes of David Beckham or Lance Armstrong, six leading Japanese keirin riders will be bringing a touch of Japanese glamour and excitement to the World Track Cup meeting at Manchester's Velodrome (January 7-9). The top keirin specialists will be competing for a share in a record £45,000 in prize money up for grabs in the special keirin, which is being sponsored by the Japan Keirin Association (JKA) on January 9. The keirin enjoys enormous popularity in Japan, attracting feverish interest amongst its huge fan base and is regarded as the country's most popular betting sport. There are 4,200 registered keirin professionals in Japan, almost twice as many as there are road pros in Europe. With 50 tracks around the country and 12 meetings lasting three days at each track a year, many offering big prize money, the keirin is easily the top earning discipline for Japanese cyclists and the discipline even has its own TV channel. Because of the high earnings in Japan the top riders rarely leave Japan to contest international keirin events. The JKA will be certain to select their top stars to participate in Manchester to ensure a good show against the world's top sprinters. Britain's Jamie Staff, the current keirin world champion, is expected to contest the World Cup keirin event in Manchester, and will no doubt welcome the opportunity to ride against the six top Japanese riders in the rainbow jersey. Alan Rushton, event director for the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Manchester, commented: "We're honoured to be asked to organise this spectacular event for the JKA and the UCI. The event could have gone to any of the World Cup venues and we're delighted that it will be the Manchester crowd who will be able to see this unique and spectacular race." The keirin is contested over two kilometres or eight laps of the Manchester track. The field of six to eight riders follow a small motorbike (derny) at an increasing pace until there are two and a half laps to go. The riders will fight for position in the string following the motorbike to suit their individual tactics. As the motorbike pulls off the track, the riders begin a sprint. The stronger riders will launch their effort early whilst others will follow into the last lap, hoping to propel themselves to the line and victory at the last moment. But the Keirin isn't just about having fun, it's also is a force for good, with around 8% of the income generated from the racing going on social and environmental project across Japan. Tickets for the three-day World Cup meeting are on sale now and can be bought at a special discount rate before November 15. Tickets are available from Ticketmaster (Tel 0871 230 2621, www.ticketmaster.co.uk) TICKET INFORMATION Adults: £18, £14, £10 Under 16s: £9, £7, £5 Family ticket (2 adults, 2 children): £45 3-day Adult Season: £48 ADVANCE BOOKING DISCOUNT OFFER BEFORE NOV 15: Adult £18 tickets are £15 £9 Child tickets are £7.50 Family ticket - £37.50 Further information on racing is available at www.worldtrackcycling.com
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