- Short, fast circuit
- “That corner”
Newington Armory is a 1.1km teardrop-shaped circuit near Sydney Olympic Park.
Usually raced anti-clockwise, the Armory’s defining feature is the sharp left-hand turn at the circuit’s northernmost point. So infamous is this turn, it is known simply as “that corner”.
On the approach to “that corner”, riders regularly hit speeds of 50-70km/h along a slightly downhill straight. The sharp turn requires heavy braking, producing a pronounced accordion effect that disadvantages riders positioned ten or more riders back in the bunch.
After exiting the corner, the road rises with a false-flat uphill. Due to the accordion effect, riders at the rear must sprint hard in order to stay in contact. If you do make it back to the group, the rest of the course gives an (albeit brief) opportunity to recover or move up, as there are no more corners. Instead, a flat straight leads into a sweeping left-hand curve between the Armory’s ammunition bunkers.After emerging from the bunkers, riders find themselves at the top of the downhill straight, preparing to tackle that corner once again.
For most of the course, the road is about three riders wide. It’s not too narrow, but it can be difficult to move up if the pace is on. The widest part of the course is along the downhill straight, which is your best opportunity to take back some positions.
The finish line is usually located halfway along the downhill straight, roughly 150 metres before that corner. However, in previous years, the finish line has been located 200 metres after the corner, which meant that only the first three riders through the corner on the final lap realistically stood a chance at victory.
Lidcombe-Auburn Cycling Club runs criterium racing at Newington Armory on Thursday evenings during summer. C & D grades commence at 5:30PM; A & B grades start at 6:10PM. If conditions are right, riders may be treated to spectacular sunsets during racing.
These are usually short scratch races lasting around 30 minutes plus one lap. Occasionally, the club adds variety by hosting points races, reversing the course direction, or using a shorter course that bypasses the ammunition depots.
Being so close to Sydney’s geographical centre, the Armory attracts competitors from a variety of clubs. In addition to host club LACC, riders from Parklife CC, Sydney Uni Velo Club, Parramatta CC and Sydney CC frequent the race.
Russell Menzies is a long-time member and volunteer with Lidcombe-Auburn Cycling Club. He is also a director of the AMR Renault Racing Team, an NRS team supported by the club.
B Grade Cyclist asked Russell for his insights into the course.
What makes “that corner” so difficult?
“The main feature is the left hand corner, which almost comes back on itself,” says Russell. “This corner’s claimed quite a few riders over the years. It’s a difficult corner because you’re coming off a false flat at speed. You have to all but slow down quite dramatically, and then re-accelerate dramatically out of the corner because it’s a false flat going back up.”
“It’s probably the most difficult part of the whole course, because in a 30-minute or 35-minute [race], you’re doing that lap probably 25 times.”
“It’s a lot of work, and it’s a real test of anaerobic power and fitness.”
“This course is notorious for some sort of wind. Very similar to Heffron; there’s always a headwind on one of the sides. It’s a testing course.”
Breakaway or bunch sprint?
“It does lend itself to good breakaways. If the riders are strong enough, it just really depends on the bunch, and whether the bunch lets them go or not. Some really good riders have broken away here very early on and stayed away for the entire race, across all grades…. So, it does lend itself to breakaways, but the majority of the time, it ends up in a bunch kick.”
Newington Armory is a heritage-listed former navy munitions depot, now converted into an arts and history precinct. It neighbours Blaxland Riverside Park, a picnic area with a huge play equipment for kids and plenty of green space.
You can easily ride to the Armory via a well-connected network of bicycle paths. If you’re approaching from the east or west, travel along the Parramatta Valley Cycleway. If necessary, cross the Parramatta River at the Silverwater Bridge.
From the south, ride through Sydney Olympic Park, up Holker Street, and turn right at Jamieson Street. You can also take the long way round, riding north up Hill Road and connecting to the riverside bicycle path near Sydney Olympic Park Ferry Wharf.
If you’re coming by car, drive up Jamieson Street and park in one of two public carparks.
Please note that the Armory’s main gates are locked after hours. For evening racing, you’ll have to enter by bike or by foot through a side gate along Jamieson Street.