Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre, Homebush. A place where mere cycling mortals can compete in the shadows of greatness on roads once graced (or at least commuted upon) by such sporting giants as Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt.
At just 1.49km long and with no climbs to speak of, SOP is a classic criterium circuit used by both Lidcombe-Auburn CC and Waratahs CC. Short and fast, with a few technical sections to keep you on your toes. Notable features include a small rise leading into the straight which tends to string the field out every lap, and some tricky street furniture in several places. At opposite corners of the circuit there are also two rather tight right handers. Both of which often lead to tense moments, especially if grades are passing or the bunches are still big towards the ends of races. For added thrills, last Sunday the exit to one of these corners was further augmented with a nasty pothole. Thankfully, no one ended up in it!
The final distinguishing feature is the finishing straight, which is deceptively long and often catches out first-timers. You don’t want to be too far back coming into it on the bell lap. But at the same time, unless you’re flying, don’t jump into the breeze too soon. Many a race has been won right on the line here. Or in my case, lost right on the line. I’ve come second, third and fourth at SOP. But never won. Yet, anyway.
According to that online cycling bible, Strava, the fastest recorded lap time at the Tennis Centre currently sits at 1 min 48 sec.