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23473 Views 48 Replies Latest reply: Oct 28, 2008 7:56 AM by Tod Meinke 1 2 3 4 Previous Next
Gale Bernhardt Legend 73 posts since
Jun 12, 2007
Currently Being Moderated

Sep 24, 2008 9:17 AM

If a draft-legal triathlon race was available, would you like to participate?


The early arguments were that age group triathletes do not have the bike handling skills necessary for safe racing.



The age group athletes that participate in USA and UCI cycling events seem to manage reasonably well.



If a draft-legal triathlon race was available, would you like to participate? Voice your opinion on the community board here.



  • ManintheArena Community Moderator 109 posts since
    Jul 3, 2007

    I'd definitely give it a shot. Drafting is such an integral part of cycling strategy that I think it would add a whole new dynamic to age group racing.


    Sure, there are people who would argue that triathlon is an "individual" sport that tests what one person can do on their own. But those are probably the same people who spend thousands on aero equipment, let alone the actual bike. It can be disheartening to pass someone on an uphill, only to have them speed by on the downhill or flats as they're tucked in the aero position churning away at their disc wheels. Put everyone on the same bike if you truly want to test individual ability.


    True, many age groupers seem to have trouble with the stay-on-the-right rule, let alone the bike-handling skills needed to ride fast in a group. But perhaps race directors can start the event with a draft-legal wave.

  • tripolson Pro 75 posts since
    Oct 15, 2007


    The triathlon competition at the Beijing Olympics pretty clearly demonstrated what's wrong with draft legal triathlons.



    In the women's race, we saw an American swimmer break away on the swim, creating a minute (or so) gap on the field.  Her reward for that effort was to fry her legs in a futile attempt to maintain that gap on a solo bike ride.   Meanwhile, the remainder of the field formed a peloton and rode her down with little effort.



    In the men's race we saw two Swiss(?) riders break away from the main pack and create a minute or two gap.  It was instructive to watch the Swiss riders pedaling furiously, while some riders in the chase pack were actually coasting in the draft.  The Swiss riders managed to maintain their gap into t2, whereupon they were almost immediately (within the first lap) run down by the chase group.



    What's clear from those two examples is that the draft-legal format eliminates any incentive for strong swimmers and cyclists to push their advantage.  Why push yourself if the result is either 1) you tow your competitors to the start of the next event or 2) you put yourself in the position of having to work harder than your competitors to maintain the same pace?



    Drafting essentially reduces triathlon to a 10 K run with an eighty minute warmup.  No thanks.



  • ManintheArena Community Moderator 109 posts since
    Jul 3, 2007

    I think the difference between the level of competition in Olympic/ITU races and age group races is pretty significant. The professionals are fast, well-trained and know exactly what they're doing. That's not always the case in your average Olympic-distance tri.


    That said, I think draft-legal races would benefit the all-around triathlete and might even give the edge to stronger swimmers and cyclists. Imagine a fast swimmer coming out of the water and executing a quick transition. If they can form a paceline with other fast swimmers, they'll begin putting distance between them and the competition. A slow swimmer must then either be really, really good on the bike or must suck the wheels of others that he can keep up with and hope they catch the lead group.


    And as Gale mentioned, don't forget about hills. They'll further seperate the good cyclists from the not-so-good. Transitions also become more important, as racers will want to make sure they don't miss out on getting in with a good group of riders. Knowing you need to be right with the leaders throughout the first two legs of the race will make it anything but an 80-minute warm-up.


    Perhaps the biggest drawback to a draft-legal race is that many people won't be allowed to use their tri bikes. Though ITU racers use clip-on aerobars on a road bike, tri bikes probably shouldn't be ridden in a pack. Essentially, this will force triathletes to become better cyclists, rather than time trial specialists.

  • RadekPar Rookie 3 posts since
    Sep 27, 2007





    As I swimmer I welcome ITU format of racing... but as a coach and triathlete it should stay as individual time trial challenge.. but is it really individual?



    Do you remember when Chris McCormack and Norman Stadler fight who draft and who did not? True is both DID! I am swimmer (recently 3th  men overall out of water in IM Luisville) where I could not ask for a better conditions in a water as a former swimmer... calm, warm, non-wetsuit, light current, 2 pace makers ahea of me... Yes I had bad race overall, but true is it saved me more then 2 or 3 minutes of my overall time in a water and lots of energy on the bike this draft behind Chris Haut and Andrew Johns...



    There is drafting allowed in the water and on the run but there is not allowed drafting on the bike.... is it fair? It is just fact



    I would like to see who would be the best of all in REAL individual time trial - both Olympic  and Ironman distances



    drafting in the water makes a different, but there was never big debate about that, which makes me sad, because most sprint triathlon shorten the swimming (due to atract more people - including the race I am directing) but there is not many triathlons with a shorter bike course...









  • TIME LORD Amateur 26 posts since
    Aug 26, 2008

    As a competitive cyclist for more than 30 years recently turned triathlete I take issue with the "early" statement that only elite triathletes have the bike handling skills to cope with a draft legal triathlon road race ,ha ha is that supposed to be a joke, where did they get these skills, I did not see any in evidence at the Olympics?


    Personally I would prefer if triathlons did not allow drafting as I enjoy time trialling ( the race of truth) more than road racing so I guess I am happy to be an age grouper where it is not an issue. Generally a good bike rider can do both well , i.e look at Lance.


    Unless you have a team around you that allows team tactics to come into play such as was the case at the Olympics to a limited extent, I don't think your typical triathlon is going to turn into the Tour de France with teams pitted against each other if drafting is allowed. In most amateur level bike road races there is stil plenty of opportunity for strong lone riders to breakaway by attacking at the right moment so no one should worry if drafting suddenly becomes legal. Typically these winning riders will have time trialling and bunch racing skills so I guess if drafting becomes widely allowed people will just have to incorporate some new skills into their workouts , i.e , learning to ride above threshold for short periods and recover fast , riding in bunches, and learning when and when not to attack. Note there is also a world of difference between Pro level bike racing where teams tactics are fine tuned (everyone one has a specific job to do) and even top level amateur bike road racing.



    I watched both the mens and womens olympic events and thought the draftining ruined the bike sections.



    PS I assume only "elite only" events allow drafting, e.g .how could drafting for just the elites be allowed in your typicall event where elites and non elites go off in waves. What happens if one or two slower elites get caught by the front of the following wave behind them ? It would be unreasonable for the elite to be able to draft off other riders and not vice a versa ?

  • niemsco Legend 189 posts since
    Sep 24, 2007

    I would never participate in a draft legal event.  My view of triathlon racing is that the strongest on the bike and the run should win the event.  Draft legal levels the playing field and turns triathlon into a swim run race.   If they turned Ironman into draft legal, I'd probably turn to Ultra running.

  • Timeyo Pro 71 posts since
    Jul 21, 2008


    my view with draft legal events is more about our competitiveness in the world competition. Drafting is legal in the ITU format of racing but not in the USAT format. I believe this puts our athletes at a disadvantage when it comes to the world stage: for example in the ITU championships etc but the fact that ITU has a relationship with Olympic committee and the race format there. I can't remember who said it above but it truly becomes a foot race from what I have seen. You stay within the lead group in the swim, get in the pelaton for the ride and kill it on the run. So it does become a foot race. Not racing in this format on a regular basis obviously makes it harder to figure out what ones strategy during the race should be, or how one should train.

    Having said that, if for example I wanted to qualify the the ITU worldchampionships which now have a sprint championship.. It would be absolutely necessary for me to get used to that format, so yes I would definately participate. Realistically, if drafting is legal, the bike portion of the race should then be made a little more difficult to separate the individuals some. Just my $0.02



  • ActiveRD Pro 9 posts since
    Mar 24, 2008

    I don't agree that the strongest on the bike and the run should win.  I think that the way that standard triathlons are setup, those athletes that are the fastest runners tend to win the events even if they are only moderately good at swimming and cycling.  I guess this is a whole different discussion in and of itself.

  • ActiveRD Pro 9 posts since
    Mar 24, 2008

    That sounds real interesting.  It must throw a whole new strategy at folks if everyone chooses their order of events!  Thanks for the clarification Gale, I do agree that swimmers lose out.  I personally feel like being a solid runner can take you a long way in triathlon, whereas if you come into triathlon with little experience as a runner, you can get trounced.  Being a good biker is great, but being a good runner is (in my opinion) priceless.

  • TIME LORD Amateur 26 posts since
    Aug 26, 2008


    I think a lot of it come down to the exact distances, swimming loses out as relatively speaking it is the shortest discipline, maybe that section should be longer . As a biker I keep my eyes open for events where the bike section is maybe slightly longer than standrd, eg a sprint tri with a 40K bike leg. However that  said the person who wins is usually very good at all 3 pursuits, I don't think you can win at top level and have a really bad discipline.



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