War on Wheels
SHORTLISTED FOR SPORTS BOOK AWARDS’ Cycling Book of the Year’ 2022
The strange and thrilling world of Japanese track racing – a cycling and betting culture unlike anything else on earth
The Olympic cycling sport of keirin was invented in Japan more than 70 years ago to raise money to rebuild the country after World War II. Now, fans bet billions of dollars a year on races, with the top riders earning huge sums.
In each race, a pacemaker leads nine riders around huge concrete velodromes, then leaves the track with around a lap and a half to go – the cue for a frantic finish as the competitors reach speeds of up to 70 kph. Along the way they block and shove each other, clash heads and occasionally crash (the two Japanese characters used to write keirin mean ‘battle’ and ‘wheel’). To prevent race fixing, the cyclists spend meets living in dorms, with no access to online technology. Their lives are ruled by ritual and fierce competition, from their rookie days at the Japan Keirin School near Mount Fuji to the annual Grand Prix final, whose winner takes home prize money of almost one million dollars.
A small number of foreign riders are invited to compete in Japan every year and some, like Shane Perkins, have overcome culture shock to prosper in the home of keirin.
Justin McCurry, the Guardian’s Japan and Korea correspondent, explores a blue-collar Japan we rarely see and a uniquely fascinating sporting culture.
You might think you know keirin racing, but you don't. This is an irresistible account of the most distinctive bike-race in the world -- Michael Hutchinson Recommended without reservation * Conquista * If you love Japan, cycling, sport in general, or modern history, you will certainly enjoy this highly informa tive and vastly entertaining book. * Acumen * There is literally not a single nook or crannie of the sport that Mr McCurry has left unexplored. But even better than that, his obvious enthusiasm for the subject is impeccably translated to the printed page. A superb book. * Thewashingmachinepost * An engagingly written in-depth explanation of keirin ... but not as we know it * road.cc * An excellent book that goes beyond the velodrome to look at keirin's place in Japanese society ... War on Wheels is a story of modern Japan that blends sport, culture and history into a subtly convincing mix * The Inner Ring *
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