Landsdowne is one of those polarising criterium circuits. Like me, plenty of Sydney riders love it. But plenty of others avoid it like a Lampre jersey. We’ll get to why in a moment. But first let’s look at the basics of this tailor-made cycling course, just a stone’s throw from Dunc Gray Velodrome in Sydney’s south west and used by several clubs including Waratahs, LACC and Bankstown.
A lap is 2km and includes a mix of left and right handers. The first major feature is a plunging downhill stretch which has a reasonably technical section at the bottom. Get your lines right and it’s fast and fun. Get them wrong and someone’s going to hospital. From here the bulk of the course is uphill as the riders wind their way back up through the eucalyptus trees (which often leave bark and leaves strewn across to the road) to the finishing straight. Nothing outrageously steep, mind you. But more than a false flat. Once again, there are a couple of tricky bends that can – and do – catch riders out including a rather tight right hander leading into the final pitch to the straight. Big fields often lead to big problems on this one, as evidenced by a serious crash here earlier in the year.
Assuming you safely navigate your way back to the top, you’re faced with another deceptively long finishing straight. Most of it is slightly downhill, a welcome relief to burning legs that have been climbing, fast, for well over 1km by the time you reach it. That said, the final 25 metres or so does rise a little, nullifying the final surge of many riders.
Sprint tactics? Well, you want to be towards the front and building your speed steadily as you enter the straight, until you hit the toilet block where you really need to be flying. It can be tight on such a narrow road in bunch finishes too, so you’ll need to show some patience as you wait for gaps to appear, and then some nerve to accelerate through them, not dissimilar to a jockey on a race horse.
Unlike most circuits in Sydney, however, there may not be a bunch sprint. Because there are almost always breakaways, and riders often manage to stay away on this course. I’ve been in several races where we thought we had the break covered, only to run out of time to make the catch.
But back to my initial point. Why does Landsdowne divide opinion so much? Well, it is narrow and technical, especially compared to somewhere like Eastern Creek. This means you can’t just cruise around. Lazy racers and those with suspect bike handling skills get caught out here. Regularly. This leads to accidents and near misses pretty much every weekend, hence many riders prefer to stay at home. The flip side of course, and my own personal position, is that it makes for a far greater racing challenge, a truer test of your ability to navigate both the course and the tactics required to win on it. Sure you have to be fit, but you also have to be smart. it’s rarely simply a powerfest.
If you can win at Landsdowne, you deserve it.
And, yes, I have. 😉
Keen to ride it? Waratahs Vets race there regularly, including this Sunday. 7:45am start.