My perspective on Age Group racing-Specifically Drafting

As this is my personal blog I feel it is my outlet to speak on nonsense and also on issues that effect me. Cool huh? I also use this to answer questions that people ask me during my normal work week. I am in the service business and deal with many people on a daily basis so these questions and topics arise.

Drafting has been and will always be a divisive and prickly topic in not only Professional triathlon racing but also in Age Group racing. I have been racing as an Age Grouper for 13 years and have been involved in the sport from a governing side for five years. I have taken the USAT Officials course and worked at races.

Here’s the real situation:
-There are more races now so more ahtletes
-Courses are held on tight single lane roads
-Sometimes the age group waves are only seperated by 2-3 minutes
-There are many athletes who are not fast swimmers but are of more even caliber in the cycling leg

So with all these things combined YES it is tough sometimes, only sometimes to get into an individual groove. Not impossible.

Ok, I am a better then average swimmer, not the first guy out of the water, but top 3-5 in most races. So the typical way Sprint and Olympic races go for me is to have very few cyclists around me on the course but I also get a good view on the course (they are typically out and back) of where people are. I see the packs and there are many of them. I know who the honest guys are and who are the consistent drafters. It doesn’t matter if you are back of the pack or trying to qualify for a championship race. Get out of the draft. This is the way it is. I am not crying here but I know who the fair guys are.

Bottom line is that drafting is cheating. An athlete is getting an unfair advantage on the bike and will be going faster then they would on there own. As well and people forget this, an athletes legs will be fresher and they will be able to run faster. These two major points are at the crux of the drafting issue.

Drafting/cheating is no different then using a banned substance. If the rules said we could draft than great, let’s get the pack rolling. But, they don’t and we shouldn’t. It is an individual sport to see who is the fastest all by themselves. The rules in the USAT sanctioned Age Group races say there must be three bike lengths between you and the rider ahead. Ok so let’s say there are a lot of people in a wave and they all come out relatively close. What does an athlete do? Simple, just let the group or individual pass you and ride it all by yourself, face the wind yourself, climb the hill yourself, race yourself. Now, the rules state if an athlete passes you then you must fall back three bike lengths out of the slipstream. It is up to the athlete to fall back out of the box before they can repass (if necessary) the rider.
Get this, I have actually had an athlete say to me after a race, “Were you with us on the bike?” Jeezzzz. There is no US in our racing and there should never be an US. If you are in the situation and are drafting will you be able to hold your head high after the race and know you did your best? Will you be able to face your friends or family and know that you competed fairly and honestly?

Now there is pacing that is allowed. Meaning that if you stay more then three bike lengths behind a rider you are legal. I see some of this going on and good on the athletes for using the rules. Nothing wrong with that.

I love racing and will just continue to race hard when I can and ignore the other cheaters. But I see and hear a lot and if you are cheating then MAN up, race fair and let the chips fall where they may. If a rider comes up on me and passes me then AWESOME you are doing good work and you should keep on trucking. I ain’t the best, never said I was but just love the racing! Till next time.
Coffee of the Day: Starbucks Mocha Java

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