By Miwako Sasaki
If you check the complete results of the Tour of Japan, you may think that Cyclingnews is mistaken. For example, in Wednesday's Stage 3, 71 riders finished and 16 riders abandoned the race. But there are 85 riders on the general classification after stage 3. It's a mystery, but it's true, because there is a special rule in the Tour of Japan.
For stage 3, there was a 12 lap circuit race, and normally if a rider drops out from the peloton and is lapped, he has to leave the race and is listed as DNF (Did Not Finish). But under the special rule in the Tour of Japan, if a rider is lapped by the peloton or abandons the race before eight laps, he will really be out of the race. If it happens after nine laps, he will be listed as DNF in the stage result, and is given the last rider's finishing time and an additional 20 minutes for the purposes of the general classification. Of course, he can continue to race the next day.
The Japanese call this the "Zombie rule". The rule saves many local riders and keeps a respectable number in the peloton. If the race is run under normal rules, the crowds will see only a very small peloton in the final stage in Tokyo. Therefore, many Japanese riders continue racing, even though they are suffering badly, like the living dead every day.
On the other hand, the zombie rule is also comfortable for the domestiques. They can stop racing early after a working hard for their team leaders in front of the peloton. They don't need to finish a race in the gruppetto, and can even watch the finish. Moreover, they can keep their energy for the next stage, ready to do their masters' bidding.