The Challenging Path of Keirin Cyclists 1
I'd like you to listen to my story for a moment. Since my father was also a keirin cyclist, keirin has always been a familiar presence in my life. However, my interest in keirin didn't develop until much later. When I was a child, I received a BMX bike and became a cycling enthusiast, participating in road races and going on cycling trips to various places. It wasn't until I was in high school that I started seriously pursuing track cycling. At that time, I watched the Tour de France on NHK and thought, "This is it for cycling," so I wasn't interested in keirin at all. I didn't even know how many riders competed in keirin races or how many laps they ran.
Back then, there wasn't much information available from overseas like there is now. During my high school years, I achieved decent results, and I had this grand misconception that I could do well in Europe too. My active father tried to discourage me. However, looking back now, I truly believe becoming a keirin cyclist was the best decision I made.
When I decided to aim for keirin cycling, it was a different era from my father's time (about 50 years ago). He mentioned that the gear ratio was free, with a time of around 73 seconds for a kilometer and 11 seconds for a 200-meter sprint. So, I underestimated it, thinking it would be easy.
The Examinations Then and Now
First, the primary examination consists of a kilometer time trial (1km TT) held in various regions across Japan (in 5 districts nationwide). Since the trials are held in different locations, the conditions vary. Some places experience extremely cold weather, rain, or bad weather. The Central District where I took the test was blessed with relatively stable weather.
I managed to pass the first examination. However, the second examination was hell. It took place at the current Japan Keirin School (formerly known as the Japanese Keirin Training Center) in Shuzenji, Shizuoka Prefecture. The second examination included a 1km TT, 200-meter sprint, written test, interview, and essay. Shuzenji in November was bitterly cold, with almost no warm-up. It's impossible to achieve good times under such circumstances. But after three attempts, I finally passed.
At that time, there were no limits on the number of attempts, and many people took the exam 7 to 8 times. I believe the passing times for the exams at that time (28 years ago) were around 71 seconds for the 1km TT and 11.6 seconds for the 200-meter sprint. The gear ratio was also unrestricted.
Thank you for listening to my nostalgic story. In the next column, I would like to share the stories of the disciples I am currently coaching.