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Motorized pace bike turning heads at Olympic Velodrome

Rides follow a motor pacer during their track cycling men's keirin first round heat 2 at the Velodrome during the London 2012 Olympic Games on Tuesday.

PAUL HANNA/Reuters

The last day of track cycling at the Olympics saw another outing for the derny, the eye-catching motorized bike that leads out the riders in the keirin race.

Actually the driver's the one that's hard to miss.

Sitting upright, dressed in black with a helmet to match, he looks like he made a wrong turn into the Velodrome while headed to a scuba diving expedition.

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In the rough and tumble eight-lap keirin, riders line up on the track behind a motorized pace bike called a derny. They jostle for position but cannot pass the pace bike until it pulls off the track at a maximum speed of 50 km/h with 2.5 laps remaining. The riders, who use the derny rider as a windbreak, then launch a final sprint.

The derny is made by a few select manufacturers, specifically for this kind of bike race.

"You should see me driving around at 85 kilometres an hour," said Canadian cycling coach Richard Wooles. "The thing was shaking all over the place while we were doing some speed training in Holland (before the Games). It was pretty fun."

There is also derny racing, where a cyclist rides behind a partner on a derny.

The derny has a small engine and its rider uses the pedals to trigger acceleration.

"You don't turn it on. You push it. You let a clutch out, it engages. The thing will take off, it will take off slowly," said Wooles.

The driver ramps up the speed until it is time to veer off the track.

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Wooles, who has ridden the derny at the last four Canadian championships, say it doesn't take long to catch on.

"If you give us an hour, we could teach you," he said.

But it takes an expert to do it at the Olympics. That would be 65-year-old Peter Deary, a coach at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester.

Originally made by France's Roger Derny and Sons in the 1930s, the derny is now a generic name for this type of motorized bike.

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