Ask triathletes about drafting and they’ll say it’s bad. And of course they’ll all tell you that they definitely know what drafting is. Many will say that it’s “sucking someone’s wheel” or following too closely to another cyclist or getting within one foot of the cyclist in front of you. Well, there’s a lot more to drafting than that!
Since approximately half of the penalties that USA Triathlon officials write are for drafting, it’s obvious that officials take it quite seriously. So, what exactly does it mean to draft? And what is a draft zone?
Each cyclist on the course has his own draft zone and as long as the cyclist is riding to the right, he has the right of way. But again, what’s a draft zone? The draft zone is the rectangular area that is seven meters long and two meters wide that surrounds each bicycle.
According to the USA Triathlon Competitive Rules, “While on the cycling course, no participant shall permit his drafting zone to intersect with or remain intersected with the drafting zone of a leading cyclist or that of a motor vehicle.” You’re thinking if that were strictly followed, no cyclist would ever be able to pass another, right?
Not true. If you decide that you want to pass a cyclist that is riding to the right, you may enter that person’s zone to make your pass. You can’t hang there forever though. Once you enter that zone from the rear, you must complete your pass within fifteen seconds. You can’t sit in the zone of another cyclist for more than fifteen seconds or you’ve drafted. You can’t enter another’s draft zone and then decide you cannot make the pass and drop out to the rear or to the side. If you do that, you’ve drafted. If you enter someone’s draft zone and the other cyclist decides to stand up on the pedals and leave you in the dust and you don’t make your pass within fifteen seconds, you’ve drafted. It’s a bicycle race…no one has to let you pass him or her!
Regional Official’s Coordinator