In a seismic shift for the world of track cycling, a new international Keirin racing competition known as DerbyWheel is slated to debut in April 2024. With events taking place in the UK, Australia, and Korea, the series is offering an eye-watering prize pot of $600,000 (£495,000) per event.
Betting and Broadcast
Mirroring the Japanese pro Keirin racing model, DerbyWheel aims to globalise its reach by distributing its events as sports betting content. It’s a nod to the Japanese origin of the sport, where Keirin racing has been intrinsically tied to gambling.
Frequency and Prize Money
Initially, the races are scheduled to be held fortnightly, with ambitions to evolve into a weekly series by 2025. The competition is more than just a spectacle; it’s a lucrative opportunity for cyclists. Top earners could pocket up to $44,000 (£36,250) per event, a sum significantly higher than any offered in current competitive track cycling. On average, participants are expected to take home $10,000 (£8,250), and even the minimum prize sits at a hefty $3,000 (£2,470).
The UCI Comparison
To put this into context, the prize money surpasses that of the UCI Track Champions League, which is considered one of the most lucrative competitions in track cycling. UCI event winners usually earn €1,000 (£866), and the overall league champion takes home €25,000 (£21,500).
International Participation and Classes
Already, DerbyWheel has attracted 408 riders from five continents, with over half hailing from Asian countries. The competition will be categorised into classes named General, Excellent, and Special—the latter being a designation for top-tier professionals.
Voices from the Cycling World
Ross Edgar, former GB track sprinter and now the competition’s director of sport, expressed his enthusiasm for the venture. “DerbyWheel will provide a steady platform for current and developing riders to perform and continue their careers for longer and continue doing what they love,” said Edgar.
Cycling Weekly reports that reigning sprint world champions have also expressed interest in the competition, solidifying its standing as a potentially groundbreaking endeavour.
The Fine Print
But these monumental prizes don’t come without strings attached. Riders will undergo an induction process to obtain a DerbyWheel licence and receive classification. Although expenses like travel, food, and accommodation are covered, riders are required to purchase their own gear at a cost of $5,100 (£4,200). This includes a standardised bike, a traditional Japanese Keirin helmet, and a state-of-the-art SRM PM9 Pro power meter. Additionally, participants will remain in an isolated “event bubble” upon arriving at the velodrome.
With its hefty prize money, international scope, and intriguing blend of sport and spectacle, DerbyWheel promises to not just complement but potentially redefine the professional track cycling landscape. The competition might very well revolutionise the sport, making it more financially viable for athletes and more engaging for fans.