What is drafting?
Drafting is positioning yourself behind another moving object (i.e. another cyclist), so that you will have to overcome less wind resistance. Dr. Edmund Burke, one of the most accomplished cycling researchers of all time, in his book Serious Cycling writes, “While drafting, a cyclist can consume from 30% to 40% less energy than those leading the pace line or pack.”
Why is drafting not allowed?
Drafting is not allowed because duathlon is an individual sport. Would it be fair if one rider were to draft another for 10 miles and use 30-40% less energy? Who do you think would win the second run? Better yet, say those two riders work together. They go faster, and use less energy overall. Is that fair to a competitor who built a lead on them on the run and has nobody to work with until he/she is caught by a group? So then there would be no reason for going hard on the first run to build a lead. What about the strong cyclist, but weak runner who can now no longer use his/her strength to catch competitors because they are now going faster as a team?
The only way to benefit from drafting is to have others that run about the same speed and are willing to work together on the bike as a team. This doesn’t fit the model of an individual sport.
Drafting is allowed in road races and criteriums, but they are most certainly team events. An individual does win those races, but ask any accomplished road racer and he/she will tell you that it is very much a team sport.
Why do we need to enforce this? Isn’t this just for fun?
Our participants are a mix of very serious competitors, those who are just out for fun and don’t take the competition too seriously, and many who are in between the two extremes. Enforcement is necessary for several reasons. First, we must have one set of rules for everyone. Second, rules are useless without enforcement. You saw this in previous seasons. This is not fair to the honest people who refuse to violate the rules. It also is unfair to those who normally would not break the rules, but see their competition doing it and feel that they now must as well. Lack of enforcement takes what would be a small problem and causes it to grow out of control. Third, even if you are doing the races entirely for fun and aren’t serious about winning, it is still an organized competition. Should little league baseball get rid of all of the umpires because the kids are just having fun? Maybe the batters can call their own balls and strikes?
Drafting rules (summarized USAT rules):
1) A participant may not position his/her bicycle near another moving vehicle (in the draft zone of another cyclist as defined below) so as to benefit from reduced air resistance. Participants are forbidden to work together to improve performance, efficiency, or position.
2) Violations are subject to a 1-minute penalty for each occurrence and the violator may be disqualified after 3 occurrences at the discretion of the race director. USAT does not define the size of the time penalty.
3) The drafting zone is defined as a rectangular area beginning at the front wheel of a bicycle and extending 7 meters or 21 feet straight back (3 bike lengths behind the rider in front) and 1 meter or 3 feet to either side. See picture:
4) Cyclists must not block or obstruct the progress of another participant.
5) A participant who is attempting to pass another cyclist is responsible for avoiding the other cyclist’s draft zone. A participant must not attempt to pass unless adequate space is available and the athlete is confident of his/her ability to successfully pass the other cyclist. All passing is to be done on the left of the cyclist being passed.
6) All cyclists must stay to the right except when passing.
7) Once the leading edge of a cyclist’s front wheel passes the front wheel of the cyclist being passed, the cyclist who was passed now bears the responsibility to avoid the draft zone of the cyclist who passed him/her.
8) Any cyclist who gets passed must immediately drop out of the back of the other cyclists draft zone before attempting to re-pass the other cyclist.
9) USAT defines the following times when a cyclist may enter another cyclist’s draft zone.
a. A cyclist is given a 15 second exemption when passing. The rider in the draft zone should be visibly making an effort to leave the draft zone through forward or reverse progress versus the other rider. THIS IS NOT A FREE TICKET TO 15 SECONDS OF DRAFTING FOR EVERY PERSON YOU PASS OR THAT PASSES YOU! You are strongly encouraged to be to the left of any riders you are passing before approaching them, so that you never have to enter their draft zone. It is the rider’s responsibility to avoid other riders’ draft zones at all times.
b. Cyclists are given an exemption on sections of the course where reduced speed is required (i.e. transition area and turns of 90 degrees or more).