I may be asking too much of a small chip, I suppose. I was pretty certain the current chip wouldn't be capable of what I was asking - but was hoping that an "enhanced" design wouldn't be too expensive or cumbersome.
I guess until someone figures out an affordable and accurate way to track the cheaters, we'll have to settle for motorcycles or binoculars....
Like most of the folks on Active, I know I have been drafted off of. This summer in fact I found a leech on my wheel going up an exceptionally long hill in the Loveland L2L, Oly tri. Anyone who has done this course knows the climb up Horsetooth is a bear. I passed a fella and maybe he took exception to it and decided to stay on my wheel? I "removed" him from my wheel as I cleared a nostril (read: farmer blow), and I still don't feel bad about it. : ) I have also been passed by two people at the same time, one on the other's tail.
Have I ever drafted? I'll say I likely could have earned a penalty a few times in my Tri career. I'll also qualify that and say it was never on purpose. Here's my qualification: I have probably not passed someone in the alotted 15 seconds, or I've probably been passed and not dropped back as fast as could, but if someone doesn't go smoking by me I really would rather not hit my brakes in order to clear their zone. I will say I have never purposefully drafted off another competitor. As I stated above, I have probably bent the rules at times, but never purposefully broken them.
How can we prevent "wheel suckers?" Can we self-police? I'm not sure how exactly or IF we as competitors can do this. I know the USAT officials work hard out there and try to keep us as safe as they can, but I am not sure they can completely monitor the course. Using chips may be a solution down the road but would that increase the cost of getting into some of these already expensive races? Is the technology that good? What about positioning standing USAT officials on the course to watch for potential wheel suckers and then send the motorcycles after them to "follow up?" Maybe we I should put the bumper sticker "If you tailgate, I'll flick a booger on your windshield" on the back of my Cervelo?
I raced in California Ironman 70.3 Oceanside in March of this year and was truly disappointed when I passed a few women who seemed to be drafting around 40 miles out; they drafted off me for almost a mile and then passed me. I had to drop back to stay out of their draft and didn't really feel like I had the strength to re-pass, I had to keep my 3-bike length distance from them for easily 8-10 miles. When the Race Marshall rode up on a motorcycle I said something to them and they watched them for a while and did go up and warn them but they were not penalized. I do not understand how people can feel good about their efforts when they clearly did not achieve the result with their own hard work and ability. Do you think that they these individuals are so jaded or cynical that they think everyone is cheating so their actions are warranted. I have not and have no intention to ever cheat in an event. When it comes down to it, ultimately I am only competing against my own ability to do better. As in all sport, there is always someone who can beat you and as it turns out there will always be someone you can beat. It all depends who is in the race that day! But it is truly an accomplishment to savor, to have beaten your own personal best! J. Mackey
You bring up a good point. I think some people do justify their drafting by thinking/believing that "everyone" else is drafting. That same sad justification is what put cycling into it's death spiral of drug abuse. Though we aren't dealing with an abuse that is physically harmful, like drug abuse, it still spells the end of fair racing in a non-drafting format.
After awhile will the honest racers will tire of the cheating and move to other sports?
I agree, from what I've seen, USAT officials try to do a good job. They can't be everywhere and as others have said - somehow racers modify their behavior when they hear a motorcycle. That is a direct signal that people are aware they are cheating.
Nice bumper sticker...maybe have some tri jerseys printed with that on the back?
I saw it first hand at 98 Ironman Hawaii. A Japanese racer who must have not known the rules was riding my wheel all the way from the airport into town. I tried to explain the rule to him, but he seemed to play "I don't speek English". I had to let him know through the international language of open the top of your water bottle and let her rip. He got the message and a nice cool off thanks to me. He fell way off my wheel till the end of the bike, and I never saw him on the run. Now, all this time later I feel bad a bout it still, and lucky I didn't get DQ'd, but back then I was a heated age grouper out to compete, and I felt it not fair for this guy to get a free ride........
It is disgusting! Even in Kona there were people blatantly drafting. One 25 year old woman (you know who you are) was right, I mean RIGHT behind a guy as they passed the non-drafting ones of us as we fought the wind.
Cheaters will get caught one way or the other...by a referee or with bad karma in an important race. I just let them know that I know and keep on pushing, racing my own race.
I too have been a victim of the wheel suck, and I'm a Clydesdale, so it's extra frustrating when a weaker rider on the flats sucks my wheel to get out of the wind, only to blast by me when gravity catches up to my 215 lb. frame on a climb.
Cheap solution #1:
Put more race officials on the bike courses dressed in volunteer attire. They'd simply walk alongside the road with a walkie-talkie. As soon as a large group passes, they would simply call in the numbers that they saw. The challenge is that you have to have clusters of 5 or so officials so they can get as many numbers as possible.
Cheap solution #2:
Have race officials drive vehicles on the course dressed as spectators. The official riding "shotgun" would have a camcorder (do they still call them that?) and cheer as if they were a race supporter. Visual evidence that can be time-stamped.
The above suggestions combined with stiffer drafting penalties will do the trick.
Not so cheap solution #1:
The not so cheap solution would be IP based video surveillance cameras. I work for a company that distributes wireless technology and IP based video surveillance solutions. As to not shamelessly plug my own company, nor to encourage race directors to raise race prices so they can invest in this technology, I'll refrain from mentioning who I work for.
There are wireless cameras that fit in enclosures that look like utility boxes that could very easily be placed in specific sections of the race course. The investment in the cameras, utility boxes, and wireless technology needed to backhaul the captured data could come along with a pricetag conservatively ranging anywhere from $100K to $150K, but could be re-used with every race. Based on the fact that this is an IP based solution, officials could sit under a race tent with a laptop and a latte, monitoring the "perps". As with any wireless data technology, there are several factors that will change the "price-tag" of the aforementioned solution: existing wireless technology in the area, folliage, line of site, etc... You might require more or even different equipment all-together dependent on the venue. For example, IMAZ would probably require less equipment than IMWI based on wide open plains vs. hills and folliage.
I could see this solution being implemented for an Iron distance race, but for sprints, olys and halfs, the pricetag would be too much. If a marketing director for the Iron series races really wanted this solution and got creative, they would give camera and wireless infrastructure companies "free" ad space throughout the race and website if they donated the equipment.
Lastly, Gale, great training programs. I've used your half on and Iron distance training programs previously, and finished my first IM in AZ in 2007. Couldn't have done it without you.
This issue will never be solved unless the race directors make sure their race marshals are educated on the rules and the rules are enforced strictly. How many of you have gone to races where there was not a draft marshall? I have been to several. Made alot of triathletes unhappy. I have already questioned USTA about one important issue. If a race is SANCTIONED, how come the race director is not mandated to have a certified draft marshlls? The main office told me that all decisions are up to the race director. Drafting in non-drafting events will never cease unless USTA starts mandating race directors to have certified draft marshalls to enforce the drafting rules or you will not be SANCTIONED.
I agree that race directors in general don't seem to be as concerned with drafting as the racing public might hope -- based on my own experience, in addition to most of the comments on this post.
Perhaps they should offer free (or discounted) entry to a future race for volunteers willing to be trained as race marshals and monitor the course. I think this idea would be pretty well received for longer, expensive races like 70.3's and full-distance tri's. Or, instead of putting hidden spotters in the crowd, put them on bikes. Have marshals dress like competitors and just ride the course. When they see drafting, they can just radio in the numbers.
Another option, similar to what some people have suggested, is self-policing. Maybe race directors should allow competitors to report suspected violators. If a certain number of people report the same bib number, that person is assessed a penalty. If a race marshal flags that bib number too, the penalty is increased. This option could get a little contentious, but it might work to deter a lot of the "should I or shouldn't I...ah, what the heck, everyone else is doing it" types of drafters.
By the way, sign me up for one of those bumper stickers, Ben!
I think that race marshalls are hired by race directors, and race directors have a self0interest in keeping as many participating athletes happy & wanting to return to the race the following year. So I question how strictly race marshalls adhere to the rules....
The camera idea is good, but the cameras can't be everywhere. This wouldn't be cost-effective.
I think ultimately we'll see some kind of GPS device attached to our handlebars and/or helmets, thus enabling marshalls to follow the riders from a central location. I've done Penticton (IM Canada), Florida, & Lake Placid. These are not 3-4 loop courses. You're out there in the middle of nowhere (no offense to the folks who actually live out there), and race officials are few & far between. I can't say I know what happens at the front of the pack, where there seems to be a greater presence of officials. But in the middle & back of the pack (due to mechanical problems!!), there's hardly an official in site.
I'm a clydesdale too, and I have teammates that draft me in the pool and even on the run. It's OK & funny in training, but not so in a race. And I agree with the person that wrote that (s)he didn't want to put on the brakes to slow down. If someone's going to pass me, then do it. It's hard to have to slow down your momentum, especially if climbing, just because someone's passing you.
It is interesting that in my 15 years of triathlon, I usually observe USAT marshals breaking up draft packs simply by hanging around the drafters, and only penalizing as a last resort if at all. It obviously is not only unfair to those who don't draft, but in a way also condones drafting by tolerating it.
I have "athlete-poloiced" at several races, mostly because I can't get by people who are blocking, which usually turns into drafting, and let me tell you if you are a female "athlete-policing" a male, it DOES NOT WORK. The responses I have gotten are priceless. Females "athlete-policing" other females works better, because the females usually adhere, but in both male and female cases of "athlete-policing" I always come out looking surly and unsportsmanlike. Go figure. It also does not help my race- it wastes far too much energy. I usually only care if women are drafting when I am trying to earn a slot somewhere, otherwise, their loss. I can still go for my own PR or my own goald, which is what I care more about rather than a top-placing (unless of course there is money involved). Which brings me to.... in just about every elite-wave sprint-distance race I have attended over the last 5 years, the top 5-20 overall place men draft. It does not seem to bother them as much. True elite male sprint racers?????
I don't think they will move on to another sport because drafting "works". People draft because they want faster bike times, which they get, they also get fresher legs for faster run times, they and place better (probably). They feed their egos, brag to the guy /gal next door, and puff up and beat their chests. In their eyes they "win", or get their glory in their eyes. Sociopaths! These are the same people who probably default on their home loans, and overspend and accumulate large amounts of credit card debt knowing they don't have the money to ever pay it back. Blame society? In my humble opinion, these people are of the same mentality as women who have fake nails and fake ***** along with the men who love them.... who cares where they came from or if they are not real, as long as they look great, right? Nothing is real anymore- so why not race that way?
Wow, great posts. Thanks to everyone for putting so much thought and passion into the posts.
Apparently race directors don't know or believe there is a problem. I suppose the first thing to do is write to the race director and complain about drafting infractions and encourage others to do the same. If everyone turns a blind eye, assumes nothing can be done, assumes someone else is doing something - nothing will change. It is usually when racers pitch a fit that something changes by the race director (more officials, change of course, etc.) I agree with those of you that said race directors have self-interest in that they want people to return to the race...be sure the RD knows that fair racing is important to you - not just a nifty t-shirt and food afterwards.
AJ had an interesting comment in that some people are interested in pumping up their ego with place or time - and it doesn't matter how they get it. Sadly, until there are consequences for their actions, these people will just continue.
The GPS-type device by SBRxxx is what I had in mind. Something automatic that registers back to a home base that bib #324 was "in range" of bib #466 for 10 minutes. This automated tracking of wheel sucking or hanging out in a pack (assuming it's accurate) makes it a no-brainer. Minimal race officials on the road and fair racing. I think that's what most people want anyway - a fair race where they can test themselves against personal bests - and a fair field.
Okay techies, get to work...
In the mean time, let your race directors know when you see cheaters.
Zach - thanks for letting me know you've used my plans and been successful. It makes me feel great to know I've helped athletes have good races.