Yes I would race in a draft legal race, but a couple points to note.
Rookies should not be allowed in draft races, there is a lot to think about in your first couple races and drafting should not be one of them. I think there should be an advanced amateur division where you have to have say a minimum of 9 races or 3 top AG finishes under you belt. In bike racing they have 5 levels, although all of them are able to draft, the lower levels go significantly slower. The stronger bikers tend to break away quickly though in the more rookie divisions (I should also note that you can win your race entry fee back plus some in bike racing) At St. Anthony's they have Pro and Elite Amateur divisions. How about Advanced Amateur as another division.
Every race doesn't have to be a draft legal race. If you don't want to draft, then don't show up to a drafting race, but I think there should be draft legal races for amateurs. Right now you don't have an option in the U.S. Some weekends there are three sprint distance races within driving distance here in Florida. It would add to the variety. I also think it would help develop our pro athletes.
Yes you would have to have different strategies for a drafting race. Wouldn't it be interesting to see teams in triathlon and not ones where a different person swims, bikes and runs? Even on the bike racing circuit, you will get a person that pulls away from the peleton and stays in the lead. You just have to make sure that you can run the fastest in the peleton of bikers you ride with.
Someone made remark that triathlon is an individual sport and if there was drafting it would really be like two events instead of three. Technically you can draft in the swim and the run. Maybe there is not as much of an advantage, but there is still less resistance when you follow someone.
With the pros, many times everyone comes out of the water in a close pack. In the AG the pack tends to be a LOT more spread out, at least in my experiences.
Maybe with draft legal races the swim should be longer (Maybe it shoudl be longer anyway?!). In proportion to the bike and the run, it really is the shortest and it only get's shorter as the races get longer. Look at the proportions of the swim to the run and bike in a sprint versus and Ironman.
Just some thoughts
From my experience as a jr elite triathlete, i think many people get the wrong impression of draft legal tri. On tv it looks liek the swim and bike are just a "warmup" for the run. In realitiy the swim is an all out sprint to make a pack. (the difference between lead and chase pack is 5 seconds). After that it is a race to not let anyone break away or to catch the lead pack. While this is happening everyone is trying to save their legs for the run. People who break away do this because they are slower runners and want a chance at staying away in the run. For all the critics out there, it is hard to make a judgement of draft legal tri based on bike racing. It is totally different. I think it would be good for age groupers to be able to experience this type of racing to see what it is all about.
Thanks for the insight, Joel. It surprises me, too, that some people would consider the swim and bike just a warm-up because drafting is allowed. Either they're exceptionally fit and have an amazing run, or they underestimate how fast the lead pack on the bike will actually travel. Just because you can draft doesn't mean everyone will settle in and watch the scenery go by.
Age-groupers can be pretty hardcore. I imagine that, in an amateur draft-legal event, once the lead pack gets going it will be a constant battle to drop the posers. Every hill will have a can-you-hang-with-me, out-of-the-saddle surge. Straightaways will see random attacks by guys who just want to win the bike leg or have a ton of confidence in their legs for the run. Those who hang back and continue to "warm up their legs" will just find themselves in a huge hole for the run if they want to compete.
Chad, I like your idea of requiring draft-legal racers to have some experience. I think that would cut down on some (though probably not all) of the potential bike-handling incidents that might arise.
I wonder if there is a race director out there with the entrepreneurial spirit to turn their local sprint or Olympic-distance race into something that might attract curious triathletes looking for something new?
The early arguments against drafting were more about the integrity of the sport than bike handling issues. Triathlons were formed by combining three individual sports. While cycling is a team sport, the time trial is an individual effort, and it is this that the early triathlons were modeled on. I strongly feel that drafting kills the individual nature of the sport.