The second race session of my stay in Japan was in Tachikawa, Tokyo. During the first two days of racing, I had a good chance to try out some new tactics and gain confidence in them. This is the best thing about racing in the Japan Keirin, learning from every single race. On the last day I was in the A final and feeling good! I accelerated in the back straight coming from 6th position and I entered the final corner behind Becks James (current World Keirin and Sprint champ and race winner), but Hiroko Ishi was too strong in the final straight and she beat me by ½ a wheel on the finish line leaving me to take 3rd place. Hiroko is currently the top girls Keirin Rider in the Japan, winning the All Star keirin, a week prior to this race and taking with her over NZ $40,000 in prize money!
Here is the link to my race: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xknN1Si1-l8&list=PL2Cqen_y-h2mv24UxEpJwqPL0zbTOOeu2&index=2 if you watch at 7:10s you will see me greeting my fans also :)
|Banter in the waiting room prior to the race|
|The final bend - Ishi in white, me in red.|
|Happy chappys after placing 1st and 3rd|
Between race sessions we had a short turn around so we decided to stay in Tokyo for 4 days rather than returning to school in Izu, 2 hours out of Tokyo. During this time we watched our first ever game of live baseball with our friend Riko (Girls Keirin Rider and former baseball player), and then the next night a bit of Sumo wrestling - entertaining to say the least! I was also able to visit the 2014 Beruf Bag’s exhibition, which contained some very stylish and well-constructed bags! Without our usual interpreter to hand, I found my self-taught Japanese came in handy this week! However there were many laughs along the way.
|Becks and I, treating ourselves after racing|
|Riko and me having fun at the baseball|
|A busy day in Tokyo - Gym, Beruf bag exhibition, Sumo wrestling, dinner|
The next and final race session was in South Japan at Yokkaichi Velodrome. I made the A final and once again tried to perfect one of my new tactics of going “senko” i.e. leading out the race. I gave it everything and came with 4th in my final race, a good result for me! Becks took out the win in style! I must mention what occurred after our race.
One of the male keirin riders competing, was going to retire after this racing session. In a thrilling race, he took the win by ½ a wheel. After the race he was showered with flowers from friends, fellow riders and family, literally 20 bunches of them. He then, in the carpark gave a speech to his supporters. Fighting back tears, standing tall he said that he was very proud of his racing career of 27 years, he had given his best effort right until the end. He told us all that we must keep fighting, and never give up. I stood back, holding off tears of my own, listening to others around me sobbing and it hit me again, how much keirin racing is a part of their culture, their job, their life.
|My Keirin racing pants, kindly embroided with my name as a gift from Riko|
|Meeting some fans and giving them my signed fan post cards|
|We hosted a tea party during lockdown in the velodrome!|
All and all, it was another fantastic trip. Lots of experience gained and lessons learnt. I couldn't have spent the month with a new and better friend than Becky James from Wales, Great Britain. We had so much in common (i.e. desperate foodies!) and loved spending time and laughing together! I also loved catching up with the Japan Keirin girls I had met last time, and hearing how their training and racing is coming along. Nothing about the trip was boring, every day I woke up excited as to what the day was going to bring, not a day went by without a surprise, whether it was a lovely gift from a fan or a raw egg in my bowl of noodles. That is what makes Japan so special and a place I will always think fondly of.
Later this month, I am off to a BikeNZ camp in Invercargill, and will be building up to the Oceania championships in late November, again to be held in Invercargill, New Zealand.
P.S. Heres a video of one of our training sessions at school before our second racing session in Tachikawa... Enjoy!