Larry's Blog Pages

October 20, 2009

Drafting in Multisport

I have read a lot of blogs of late concerning the lack of officiating re: drafting in Kona. I also know from experience, that the rule is generally over looked in our local weekend events even though there are 3 to 5 motorcycles out on the course.

I guess the question I am asking is, is it worth having a rule that is not policed properly or consistantly enough to warrent the law?

I realize the rule is in there for the safety of the riders but have you ever seen the list at the end of a local event? You cannot tell me that only 2 or 3 people were drafting out of 400 to 800 athletes.

Usually, the officials are watching the top riders while the rest of the groups in behind get away with working together. The leaders are out there busting their butts and worried about getting too close to each other while the packs coming up behind are making time together and cutting into the lead. It may not result in a total reduction of the lead gap, but the energy they save may come in handy on the final run.

As someone who has received a drafting penalty, while riding close to the front of the race, and still doesn't agree with the call, I am always watching the riders around me. The one thing I watch most is the part of the rule I was apparently in violation of when I received my 2 minute penalty. That being, to drop back 5 metres (OAT Rule, 7 metres Tri Canada rules) as soon as the person's leading edge of their front wheel breaks the imaginary line across the front of your lead wheel.

When I was passed, going up an incline, I continued at my pace but the guys that went by me moved over in front of me and slowed down immediately as the hill became tougher. I maintained my pace and moved passed them. Now, when I overtake people on the road, I watch to see if they drop off my wheel right away or if they try to jump on for a free ride. Being in the duathlon, I have to come through a lot of triathletes in the field who get to the bikes earlier. As I make my way up the ranks on the bike, and get up to the better age group athletes, I notice many people do not drop off their pace. By the time I get to these people, my speed is not too much quicker so the time they spend in my draft becomes longer.

Because, I have been punished for this, I am more aware of the rule (as the officials and I had a pleasant chat after the race). I am not angry at the other riders as I do not expect others to break their momentum just because I get by them (as long as they are not hanging right on my wheel for miles after the pass) but I am disappointed that I have not seen any official hitting others for the exact same infraction.

I say, if you are not going to enforce the rule on everyone, than there is no use in having it. It should not matter if it is the leaders of the race or the mobs of age groupers hitting the road at the same time with only half a road to ride on. A rule is a rule and if it does not work (due to the number of people in the same area or the lack of officials in a race, etc.) than eliminate it or amend it. It is just like any other sport, call the game consistantly and everyone will know what to expect from the officials.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

My take on this...the passing rider should have the responsibility to continue at current pace (ie. faster than the rider he/she is passing) until the passed rider is outside the drafting zone. The passing rider cannot slow down, and the passed rider cannot speed up until this has occurred.
As you mentioned, this problem regularly occurs during an incline as ambition exceeds available power (or lack thereof)
One final thought - no drafting penalty should ever be applied during the ascent of the Beast of the East at Grimsby - everyone can be forgiven for running out of power there!

Tommy Ferris said...

i'd say that it's similar to the No Crossing The Centre Line rule. you know that you're not supposed to do it, but sometimes it's difficult to avoid and can't be helped. however, there is a very serious safety concern regarding the centre line rule and that rule is rightfully justified, but i've never felt unsafe while riding within the drafting "zone", nor have i felt unsafe while someone is on my rear wheel. drafting is a part of racing, whether racing bicycles, cars, or otherwise. we all do it. as far as i know, most race officials will give you a warning before penalizing you, which i think is a fair way of enforcing a rule that many multisport athletes aren't too fond of.

Corey said...

Interesting topic Larry, I found your blog through Simon Whitfield's page.
I've only been doing these races for a couple of years so I'm no expert but this is what I think.

I think non-drafting is a good rule for age group races for safety, I wouldn't be comfortable riding on unknown people's wheel and I wouldn't want people on mine, is the skill level of the riders there? I don't know if I have the skill since I've never done real drafting. I also think it is a good rule to keep the course from clogging with packs of riders, I'm a slow swimmer and need to pass a lot of people on the bike. If there were packs of riders like an ITU race that would be impossible. Maybe they could make another rule to prevent pelotons, like keeping single file except to pass. However non-drafting is just part of the nature of these races as I think they just want to make it like a time trial. No reason except that's just how it is. The best example of a time trial race is Welland IMO because the swim start is staggered as well.
The rule makes it the responsibility of both the passer and passee to prevent a drafting situation the way I understand it. There is allowed to be 15 seconds where people are allowed to pass through the draft zone. If an official is watching this they should give an unofficial warning first IMO, and if they find it happening again then assess the penalty. It must be rare to actually give a penalty since it seems difficult to make this judgement call out on the course. Sounds like you got a trigger happy official.
It does make sense to spend more time watching the race leaders for drafting since there is more at stake for those athletes. That being said they can't ignore the rest of the field either. The rule is mainly left to the athletes to try and adhere to themselves on an honour basis. In my experience people have no problem telling each other how to ride when they are breaking a rule or riding with poor etiquette. However I haven't seen drafting as a particular problem. I haven't seen the front of the race though as my best finish was 42nd in Guelph Lake II tri.
Keep up the good work Larry. I'm doing the Hammer marathon as well and aiming for under 3 hours. I think you're sandbagging it with the 4:15 pace! Good Luck.

Bruce Bird said...

Larry, you are taking your blog to another level, I see good things on the horizon.

Draft legal events involve a different strategy that includes teamwork; just ask Colin Jenkins.

I have had the benefit of seeing hundreds of triathletes during the bike stages of events this past year based on my starting position (over 40). I have seen people benefitting from drafting to a small degree, but it is nothing compared to tactics applied during road races where drafting is legal.
From what I have seen those drafting are already suffering and they never gain that much. The riders near the front of the race seem to make an effort to avoid situations that can lead to drafting. Always stay far right except when passing then make an exagerated move far left (mind the yellow line). I agree with Corey's post the onus should be on the passer to make then move only when they know that they have the strength to carry it out and then go far left.

The enforcement of the rule should be consistent as you mentioned. There is little to gain by drafting going up a hill anyways; officials should be aware of this. That is why people always attack on climbs during road races. In your case you got a bum deal.


4 great responses guys! Great to hear that there are so many opinions. One message that i can take from this, nobody really agrees with the current rules. Maybe it is time to get an ear from the triathlon powers that be and have a joint athlete/admin committee that can come up with something better than what is in the rule book.

Hopefully, you all come back to see my responses. Never know in this website if it is best to leave my comment in the comments area on my site or the respondant's site?

Stuart - thanks for being a return voice on my site. I hope you continue to read and leave your valuable commentary!

Tommy - i can feel your energy levels getting back up to game shape. Great to hear you are running again! I wish I would have received a warning last spring as I know I did not get in that situation again after the official called me out.

Corey - so happy you followed the link. Having Simon add my blog (as he does very happily to almost anyone that requests it!) has been a great way to deliver traffic to my site. You brought up some very good points that I was leaving out of my argument. Well done! As for the marathon, I can only hope sub 3 is as easy as it should be. The last 10k will either bring me glory or . It is going to hurt. Look for me in a FMCT Falcons jersey! Say hi if you see me!

Bruce - you are the perfect person to be on such an advisory board! I am glad you left your feedback so we can see the views from all levels of competition. I hope you are feeling ready for Clearwater!

Thanks everyone!