LACC Newington Armoury Twilight Crits Round One

LACC Armoury Crits Round 1 23 Jan 2014

Pic courtesy of the Park Bikes Twitter feed

Last night saw the first official foray into a regular weekly criterium event at Sydney’s Newington Armoury event centre, hosted by LACC. I finally got round to paying up my road racing licence, and went along for a first foray into crit racing. I really liked what I saw.

I skipped out of work early and managed to arrive somewhat in advance for the event, having messed up the times in my mind by a good half an hour. On the ride to Olympic Park from the CBD, my legs had started out worryingly sluggish but brightened up about halfway, so I was feeling fairly positive, and went for a couple of exploratory laps of the circuit.

Newington Armoury is a historic site, formerly a Royal Australian Navy munitions depot. It’s littered with underground bunkers and blast-containing earthworks. In 1999, the RAN handed it over to the NSW Government, for its new use as part of Sydney Olympic Park and the nearby suburb of Newington. It’s a venue with fond memories, as one of my favourite music festivals – The Great Escape – was held here.

The lap itself is almost an egg-shape, with one sharp corner and one wide curve. At the sign-on area is the one tricky corner on the lap, a 120 degree left-hander which takes one onto the start-finish straight, which then curves left over some rough concrete – where my cobble bike’s forgiving nature might be useful – past a row of bunkers, completing a half circle onto a fast downhill back straight and into the tricky corner. To start, riders would be neutralised from sign-on to just before the start line, and then it’d be on for young and old. Simple, right?

Being my first crit, I’d decided not to bite off more than I could chew and opted, on advice, to ride in C-Grade. As an early arrival, got race number 1. C and D would depart first for roughly half an hour plus a bell lap, with D-grade being belled a couple of laps earlier. Straightforward, no messing around, a businesslike briefing was done and we were off.

From the whistle I followed a conservative game plan – a touch of pedal on tarmac in the first lap notwithstanding – keeping my nose out of the wind as much as possible, but staying close to the front, as did some other riders. This meant the first half was more tactical than furious, with occasional probing breaks which got reeled in quickly. The bulk of the pacemaking was made by a select group of about four or five riders, and no-one wanted to spend too long out front with a cross/headwind in the back straight. At one point, I got into a small break composed of the eventual podium takers, but with none of us wanting to burn ourselves trying to escape, we were reeled in and got back to the tactical game.

The upshot was that by half distance, the marshalls were calling to pick up the pace. So we did. I took a turn or two on the front, and retreated back to second or third wheel for a slight recovery before the bell. A touch of panic crept in among the group when D-Grade got belled around 25 minutes in, but the call was made and everyone came back together for a last cagey lap or two before the now inevitable sprint.

At the bell I was in second wheel, and took a tight line into the bunkers to ensure anyone passing me would be in my eyeline to the right, before opening up the intakes and making a break for it over the roughest part of the road. From what I could see with my head down, I hadn’t succeeded in shedding quite everyone, and a pair of us looked to have broken off the front into the downhill straight.

The corner would be crucial, mess it up on the last pass and your race is done. I took the widest entry I could, clipped the apex and skimmed the edge of the grass on the exit, then tried to go full afterburner to clear my wheel. But the rider behind was locked on. The only thing to do would be to give it everything to the finish line, but I’d gone too hard too early and had nothing left as the Park Bikes jersey of Lachlan McKillop crept round on my right, nosing in front as my legs started to beg for mercy. With 15 metres or so to the line I sat up and rolled in for a very happy but breathless second place.

The A and B grade races looked to be much more of a smashfest, with splits being made and riders being dropped all over the course. Of particular note was the fact that the B-Grade podium was graced by two junior riders, clearly going very strong, with yet more Park Bikes riders on the steps

So that was it, my first road race. A little prize money in the pocket, some valuable experience gained and plenty of fun had. There’ll be a race from 6pm every week through the summer – weather permitting – so if you’re in Sydney and feel like a fun little crit to grace your Thursday evening, come down and join in. Follow the LACC_Syd Twitter account or hit up the Facebook group for social media notifications, or check the Park Bikes blog and LACC racing pages for updates.

And finally, a big thank you to the organisers for putting on a fantastic little event. See you next week!


2 Thoughts on “LACC Newington Armoury Twilight Crits Round One

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