Isn’t Drafting Legal Already?

By Pete Williams

There’s been much debate in the triathlon world about the new Draft Legal Challenge, a sprint distance triathlon on March 5 in Clermont, Fla., endorsed by USA Triathlon. Drafting is commonplace in competitive cycling and group rides, but it’s a no-no in triathlon, with penalties assessed during races by officials on motorcycles.

At least that’s the theory. Many a sprint triathlete has been flagged over the course of a modest 10-to-25 mile bike course that’s easy to police. Ironman races, however, are notorious for not enforcing the drafting rule over the course of the 112-mile distance (56 miles for an Ironman 70.3 race).

The recent debate over the new Draft Legal Challenge got me wondering. Is this really a big deal? Many triathletes already race draft legal unofficially during longer events. The Ironman 70.3 championship, held in Clearwater from 2006-2010, is notorious for drafting. In November, I shot some footage about midway through the bike course along McMullen-Booth Road just north of Drew Street.

I shot at street level and from an overpass. The drafting might have been even more blatant were it not for a friend of mine, a triathlon purist, who brought along an electronic bullhorn and urged athletes to “break it up.” We watched cyclists for 90 minutes and while Ironman policed the pros, we rarely saw a motorcycle after that. Unfortunately, we did see two wrecks.

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Filed under Races, Triathlon

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