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© Tim Waterworth / Xtra Mile Events
Draft Legal Age-Group racing - are you ready?
Posted by: John Levison
Posted on: Wednesday 13th April 2016

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Age-Group Draft Legal racing - are you ready to embrace something new?

Draft Legal qualification races for the ITU World Triathlon Championships Age-Group (Sprint) start on 22nd May 2016

As you may well be aware if you are one of our many readers seeking to qualify for the Great Britain (or indeed, any country), team for the upcoming Age-Group World Championhsips, there have been some significant changes made which come into force this year.

For the ITU Duathlon World Championships (Aviles, Spain) and the ITU Triathlon World Championships (Cozumel, Mexico), the SPRINT distance events at both World Championship events for Age-Groupers will now be held under the Draft Legal format. It's fair to say that when that decision was announced, it generated lots of... discussion! Some have been predicting carnage ("triathletes can't ride a bike"), along with a double dose of outrage, while others have said "embrace change, try something different - you might enjoy it."

Will it be carnage? Let's see how it has gone so far...

Changes to Championship race formats also mean a requirement to amend the format of qualification races - with it being more difficult to host Draft Legal events due to finding appropriate venues and/or road closures. The qualification events for the ITU Duathlon World Championships (Sprint) have already been held this year at Oulton Park and Bedford Autodrome and with the three ITU Triathlon World Championship (Sprint) qualifiers starting with the Human Race Eton Dorney event on 22nd May, I thought it was prime time to get some feedback on how things have actually gone so far.

To do that, I asked regular GB Age-Group representative Tom Stead for his thoughts. Tom was the British Triathlon Age-Group Athlete of the Year in 2014, and has been a Gold medallist at both the European (2015) and World (2014) Duathlon Championship, as well as the European Triathlon Championships - all over the Sprint distance. Perhaps more relevent in this instance, Tom excels on bike and his fastest bike splits have been key to his successes to date. As a (relatively...) weaker swimmer and runner, the format changes should impact him (adversely) more than most. Having raced at both Oulton Park and Bedford, he admits, that he has enjoyed them:

"I have to admit - I was a sceptic! I've done a few road races/crit races and although they were fun, they were crazy dangerous as I was riding with people who, essentially, were beginners that 'couldn't' handle their bike. In almost all the races I've done, someone has fallen off their bike and broken a bone! This is why I was a bit concerned going into the draft legal (multisport) races this year...

"That all being said, I really enjoyed the two draft-legal races I've done this year. It's a completely different type of racing as it suits the 'runners' down to the ground and isn't amazing for the likes of me; being a cyclist. But I thought I'd give it ago anyway! Aside from one rider going down right in front of me whilst he's reaching for a bottle (I think that's what people mean when they say 'triathletes can't ride bikes'), they actually went a lot smoother than expected and can really work in the future when it comes to triathlons too. The only issue comes, when trying to find the right course, which has a lake next to it, but wide enough to be safe to ride in groups!

"Personally, I'm looking forward to doing more draft legal races, but will always go into them with caution! Even though they're awful for me... as I don't win as much!"

Oulton Park Duathlon - pic by Tim Waterworth / Xtra Mile Events

Another familiar face on the Age-Group scene is Gary Walker, a member of the ERDINGER Alkoholfrei team. Gary has written an excellent feature - 'Are you drafting or grafting? - in which he says:

"Revisiting my thoughts on draft-legal racing, it has taught me a few lessons. It emphasised what I already knew – that I had to get run fit, but that this will come with time following my injuries. I hope it is here to stay, but I hope non-drafting is too. It takes a different mentality and adds dimension to your racing. Ideally, I'd like to see the world championship qualifying events as draft legal but the Europeans to remain non-drafting."

He also has some advice for you: "My tip for riding together is to work smoothly! Don't sprint to get past the man who has just had their turn on the front, and don't break them… work with each other! Trust me, it will help you! Once you have taken your turn, back off, drop back and keep the line moving. Simple!"

His opening line also pretty much mirrors my own personal thoughts on this: "Whatever your opinions on draft-legal, it is important to keep an open mind – and whether you think it will kill age-group multisport racing or improve it for the better, don't dismiss it until you have tried it."

Draft Legal Qualifiers for the 2016 ITU World Championships (Sprint Distance) in Cozumel

  • Eton Dorney, Human Race - Sunday 22nd May 2016 - WEBSITE
  • Strathclyde Multisport Festival, Glasgow Tri Club - Sunday 5th June 2016 - WEBSITE
  • Llandudno Sea Triathlon, Xtra Mile Events - Sunday 19th June 2016 - WEBSITE

And note - while these events may be offering qualification opportunities for the GB Age-Group team, they are open to all - you don't need to be seeking qualification (or indeed, be British!) to enter. Why not try something new? If you ARE wanting to qualify - make sure you are registered HERE.

However, don't turn up with your time-trial bike...

Different race format does equal different (equipment and competition) rules. Here, in brief, are the key ones.


In summary...

  • Drafting of athletes of a different gender is not allowed
  • No drafting of a motorbike or vehicle!
  • No drafting of athletes on a different lap is allowed
  • Lapping is allowed (you just can't draft athletes on a different lap)
  • The bike frame shall be of a traditional pattern - closed frame of straight or tapered tubular elements
  • Any non-traditional / unusual bikes or equipment are illegal unless prior approval is granted by BTF Technical Committee prior to the start of the competition.
  • Saddle must be a minimum of 5cm, maximum of 15cm behind a vertical line through the centre of the bottom bracket
  • Wheels must have at least 12 spokes
  • No disc wheels
  • No disc brakes
  • Only standard (and plugged) drop handlebars
  • No clip-on extensions (even to the 'shortie' ones) are allowed
  • No tri-bars / bar end shifters etc.
  • Aero helmets that "restrict the field of vision or that restricts a competitor’s ability to hear properly" are illegal

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Have Your Say
Re: Draft Legal Age-Group racing - are you ready?
Posted by markissimo
Posted at 12:31:32 14th Apr 2016
Reply to this

We live in Spain as my other half is also half Spanish. Pretty much every triathlon/duathlon here is drafting, so much so that the majority of people don't own tri bikes unless they do 70.3 or longer (the minority). Also, contrary to what seems to be the case in France (we also lived in France for over a decade) and the UK - and please correct me if I'm wrong - Sprint and Olympic distances are considered easily as important in their own right, and not just stepping stones to longer distances. My other half has no interest in doing anything longer, her physiology suits Sprint/Olympic much better.

In my view drafting is a far better way of racing simply as it's so much easier to police cheating (i.e. drafting in non-drafting races) Also even when legal it's clearly obvious that you get a 'draft' from other people, especially when on a busy race course and so it's not a level playing field anyway. We get the occasional fall but that in my view is part of the deal and the reality is that you have to learn to race differently.

Also, as a counter to the uber-cyclists, I'd argue that it's actually a fairer way to race as the bike leg is always the longest in time so allowing drafting equalises the 3 disciplines a little more than in non-drafting racing.

My other half will be racing in both the World Duathlon and European Triathlon Sprints this summer (1 week apart) for Spain, but bizarrely the triathlon (ETU) is non-drafting the duathlon (ITU) is drafting. This seems completely non joined up thinking; I don't know what the relationship between the 2 governing bodies is but they should get act together and decide one way or the other. If it were my choice I would have draft legal racing every time.