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Drafting – Ignorance is No Excuse

By: Roxane Kruse, USA Triathlon Certified Coach


Did you know that drafting is one of the top 10 most-violated rules in triathlon?Is this because triathlon is full of a bunch of cheaters? I find that hard to believe. While it is the athlete’s responsibility to know the rules of racing, still many do not take the time to learn them and end up with time penalties, or even worse, disqualification. Next week, you will hear from us about a number of USAT rules, but today’s post will focus on the no drafting rule and how to avoid the course officials jotting your number down and slapping you with a time penalty (offense 1 and 2) or disqualification (offense 3).

A violation for drafting typically occurs when the cyclist does not maintain the required gap of three bike lengths behind the cyclist in from of him or her. However, riding next to another cyclist or using the draft zone of a motor vehicle would incur a violation as well. So what happens if you have to pass? Passing is permitted, on the left only and not crossing the center line of the road, and the cyclist must complete the pass within 15 seconds. One of the drafting violations I have seen most often is by the cyclist that just got passed. Unfortunately, the cyclist just “overtaken” by a passing rider is also responsible for dropping back out of the draft zone (three bike lengths). Many times, this person attempts to re-pass without first having cleared out of the zone first, or just stays in the draft zone to “suck a wheel”.

If you’ve ever ridden in a group, especially on a windy day, you know the benefits of drafting. While learning how to ride in groups is a valuable training tool (because riding with a slightly faster group will make you stronger), on race day you are on your own, out there in the elements, left to your own fitness, power and aerodynamics. Triathlon is a test of individual strength, so don’t compromise the feat of completing a race by getting caught up in a draft. Besides, everyone will know if you are a cheater because time penalties are listed in the results. Know the rules and have a clean and fun race of which you can be proud.

To read the official language from USA Triathlon on drafting, click the hyperlink to go to the USAT Rulebook and review Article V. Cycling Conduct.

Grand Rapids Triathlon

We are the largest independent triathlon and proud host of five USAT National Championships over the course of our ten-year history. While our event brings in some of the best athletes from across the country, we have also been named one of the Top 5 Best Triathlons for Beginners in the country according to Triathlon Business International. This triathlon event is a chance for athletes of all skill levels to compete on a scenic riverside course, perfect for the novice through the seasoned triathlete. Offering Sprint, Olympic, and Half distance Triathlons, Aquabike, Swim and Relay events, this USA Triathlon sanctioned event promises heart-pounding excitement from start to the finish.