Chapter Three: The Battlefield
During the Keirin races, all the racers must stay, or rather they are sequestered, at the velodrome for the duration of the race. Depending on the category of the race (for which there are five, F1 being the lowest, G3 being the highest), races last for 3 or 4 days. Races must not leave the velodrome during that time. They are permitted no visitors and cannot have cellphones or computers. Family members can contact the velodrome authorities in case of emergencies. Only if the racer has been injured during a race can they leave but not return, to be replaced by another racer, standing by locally just in case they are needed. At a 3 or 4 day event, there are 12 races daily with 9 riders in each race. Every racer competes once per day. Each race is only 2km, with 75% of that being led by a pacer, a rider that is not allowed to be passed until the final 500 meters, at which point a bell is ceremoniously hit with a wooden hammer and the pacer peels off the the race truly begins. Racers must declare their strategy the day before each race, in order to give gamblers a sense of how what racers are going to do. Racers form a line or an alliance between each of the three strategies. There are three strategies: Senko, Makuri and Oikomi. Senko attacks from the moment the bell is sounded and trying to win alone, but that is a hard gamble to make. Makuri tries to follow the Senko rider's draft and sprint around to win at the end. The Oikomi racer follows the Makuri, often blocking other racers and their alliances. Once a racer's tactic is told to the media, they must stick with that tactic, as gambling is based on this information.
Keirin in Japan is a very physical race, with racers usually wearing padding, as crashes and broken bones are common.