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© Fred MacGregor

Unlike any other cycle racing in the world, the colourful and highly lucrative Japanese Keirin circuit is a long way from the cutting edge technology and sporting ideals that took centre stage at the Olympic Velodrome.

Gambling remains at the heart of Japanese Keirin, and with betting slips totalling up to seven billion euros a year and top riders taking home up to two million euros in prize money, these races are big business.[/one_half]Spectators are typically lower middle class, over 60s men putting their state pension back into the state’s pockets (race meets are often planned around giro day). Many of the sport’s ardent fans prefer to follow a cascade of numbers falling on screens in the belly of the stadium, rather than watching the action unfold on the track. It’s a shame because the race itself is a fantastic spectacle: brightly uniformed athletes on beautifully crafted slender steel frames and shining rims jostling for position before an explosive sprint finish.

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