Japanese want keirin glory

Olympic kilo champion Chris Hoy has been drafted into the GB team for Sunday's Special Keirin at the

Olympic kilo champion Chris Hoy has been drafted into the GB team for Sunday’s Special Keirin at the

PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE A field of 28 riders from 15 nations have been invited to contest the Special Keirin taking place during this weekend’s World Cup meeting at the Manchester Velodrome. Japan has sent six of its top riders to this all-star event that takes place on January 9. The race, sponsored by the Japan Keirin Association, is set to be one of the most prestigious keirin races ever to be held outside Japan. Japanese team manager Yujiro Shimizu commented: “All six of our riders are eager to do well against the world’s top riders. We will be aiming for success in what is certain to be a spectacular event.” Japan’s specialist keirin riders rarely compete outside their own country, though the Manchester event, which carries a record £45,000 in prizes, is proving a strong attraction. The Japanese squad is Takashi Kaneko, Kazuya Narita, Yusho Oikawa, Hiroshi Tsutsumi, Harutomo Watanabe and Yuji Yamamada. In recent years, non-Japanese riders have become expert in this sprint-type discipline. Leading exponents include world championship winners such as the USA’s Marty Nothstein and Australia’s Jobie Dajka, who will both be competing at Manchester. Nothstein, twice winner of the world keirin title, is looking forward to competing on the famed hardwood track, one of the fastest in the world. “I will be racing the special invitation keirin as well as the World Cup scratch and Madison. It is a very full programme of racing for me, but what better place to race than at Manchester,” said Nothstein. Probably America’s greatest ever sprinter, Nothstein at one time held both the world sprint and keirin titles. But his most cherished memory is winning the Olympic crown at Sydney in 2000. Dajka, a product of the Australian Academy of Sport, is no stranger to Manchester, having won a Commonwealth sprint bronze there in 2002. Later that year, Adelaide-based Dajka went on to take the world keirin title in Copenhagen. In 2003, he emerged from the Stuttgart Worlds with silver. Current world champion Jamie Staff has been forced to withdraw from the Manchester line-up because of injury. He will be replaced by Olympic kilometre champion Chris Hoy. Although Hoy has concentrated on the kilo in recent years, his powerhouse style makes him a formidable keirin competitor. Britain’s trio of competitors is completed by world and Olympic team sprint medallist Craig MacLean and rising sprint star Ross Edgar. Strong contenders for victory include Spain’s Jose Antonio Escuredo, a keirin silver medallist in both the World Championships and Olympic Games in 2004. Ivan Vrba of the Czech Republic is another keirin star, taking a Worlds bronze in 2004, whilst Andriy Vyvnokurov, European keirin champion from the Ukraine, is perhaps the best of the young riders. Tickets are still available for the three-day World Cup event. For ticket information contact: Ticketmaster: Tel 0871 230 2621 www.ticketmaster.co.uk Adults: £18, £14, £10. Under 16: £9, £7, £5. Family Ticket (2 adults, 2 children): £45. 3-day Adult Season: £48 For racing information go to www.worldtrackcycling.com