2015 USA Triathlon Milwaukee Super Sprint


Age Group Draft Legal Information for Athletes

Welcome to the Age Group Draft Legal page where you will find relevant information and content on draft legal racing for our greatest asset, you the athlete. With the International Triathlon Union's recent decision to change the format of their Sprint World Championships to Draft Legal, and with the ever increasing prevalence of Draft Legal races across the United States, it is of the utmost importance that athletes have access to resources to ensure they are able to compete safely in this exciting racing format. If you have any questions with the content provided, please contact nationalevents@usatriathlon.org.
 
Draft Legal Rules Checklists
The following downloadable checklists are handy guides that will answer most of your draft-legal questions:
Draft-Legal Duathlon Checklist

Age Group Draft Legal FAQs

What is Draft Legal Racing?

Draft Legal racing is a style of Triathlon racing that allows athletes to draft off of one another on the bike leg of a Triathlon. This reduces the effect of drag on an athlete due to following the lead bikes slipstream. Most triathlons in the United States are non-draft, meaning that athletes on the bike leg must stay at least 3 bike lengths behind an athlete, unless they are moving to the side to pass. Draft Legal racing typically involves a lot of athletes riding in packs, like you might see in major cycling races and World Triathlon Series events.

What are the main differences in officiating for a draft legal race compared to a non-draft race?

First are foremost, the main difference will be that there will not be any drafting penalties given out by the officials during a draft legal race. Furthermore, athletes risk being “lapped out” in a draft legal race if they are overtaken by the race leader. In this situation, an official will notify the athlete that they have been disqualified and must leave the course in a safe and prompt manner. Athletes will also need to serve penalties that have been assessed by stopping in a penalty box that is placed on the run leg of the race. In addition, there are various equipment requirements (outlined later), requirements for pre-race briefings, and wetsuit and kit requirements. A full list of rules can be found at DraftLegalRules.com, and also by attending the races pre-race briefing, which is typically required for all athletes in a draft legal race. 

Example of a peloton cycling pack that is common to Draft Legal races:

peloton

What are the main course differences and distances for a draft-legal race compared to a non-draft race? 
To begin with, draft-legal courses are typically performed in a looped fashion, with the exception of the swim course. The bike and run are both either a 1 or 2 loop course, and are each closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic. The run and bike course are required to be separate from each other as to not interfere with the large packs of bikes that will come together throughout the bike portion. In addition, a wheel pit it sometimes offered in draft legal races for a quick change out of a wheel should the athlete encounter a flat, and the run course typically included a penalty box where an athlete would serve their penalty if given one.
What are the main differences for the swim course?

The swim portion for a draft legal race consists of a beach start, with athletes going off in waves of 75 or fewer based on age groups and gender. These waves will typically go off 10-15 minutes apart to account for course density and safety. The athletes will be required to line up and take their starting spot at a line or rope strung along the beach area, and then will run into the water once the start horn goes off. 

Example of a beach start at a Draft-Legal race:

beach start

What are the equipment requirements for a draft legal race in the United States? 

The main difference to note for draft legal racing is that a road bike is required. Only traditional drop-style handlebars and brake levers are allowed – aerobars are not. Furthermore, all wheels must have a minimum of 12 spokes, so disc wheels are not allowed. New for 2018, disc brakes are permitted. To see a complete list of equipment requirements for draft-legal racing in the United States, please follow the link to Draft Legal Rules

Example of a road bike with drop-style handlebars:

dl bike

Are there any body marking differences between a non-draft and draft legal race? 

In a draft legal race, body marking with number tattoos or marker on both shoulders and both legs (between ankle and knee) is required. In addition, each athlete must be provided a helmet number and bike post number.

What are the main differences in transition for a Draft Legal race compared to a non-draft race?  

For a draft legal race, the flow through transition will be on a solid surface (parking lot, pavement) and will sometimes consist of a “hot” transition, with competing athletes flowing through the transition area while they are on the bike course. Furthermore, athletes will be given 2 feet of space per bike on their respective bike rack, and transition baskets for equipment are typically provided, although not required. If a basket is provided, all equipment that is not in use for that particular leg of the race must be placed within the transition basket, or else a penalty will be assessed.

Example of a transition area with a basket in Draft Legal racing:

dl transition

Clinics

Age Group National Championships, August 10. Click here for more info.

Sanctioned Draft Legal Races

Click here to find a USA Triathlon Sanctioned draft-legal race in your area.

Draft-Legal National Championships

The ITU Sprint-Distance Triathlon and Duathlon World Championships are now organized in a draft-legal format. USA Triathlon offers both Triathlon and Duathlon National Championships for athletes to qualify for worlds. Starting in 2018, these events are now National Championships (formerly referred to as World Qualifiers).

2018 Draft-Legal National Championships (qualifying for 2019 Worlds):

Coaching Tips

Draft-legal racing is a type of triathlon that is fast paced and exciting. This is the same format used in the NCAA Varsity Women’s Triathlon movement as well as the Olympics. For that very reason draft legal (DL) racing is growing in popularity for athletes and fans. This article will give you information and the necessary skills in order to be prepared for the demands of draft-legal racing. 

Swim
Typically athletes are called to the start line one at a time and your choice of position on the line can make or break your swim. With athletes starting side by side, the swim venue is important to understand and practice as there can be several different kinds of swim starts. Swims can take place in lakes or oceans, which can have athletes starting on the beach, in the water or on a pontoon resulting in a dive start. Skills that can improve your swim for beach starts will be dolphin diving, and aggressively running in and out of the water. Pontoon starts can be challenging, as the power from all the athletes simultaneously pressing off the dock can move the dock backwards, so be ready to dive off as soon as the horn blasts.  

It’s critical to improve start speed to the first turn buoy because the beginning of draft legal swims are aggressive, rough and fast. Similar to non-draft racing, sighting is a skill that takes time and practice but, if done properly, will help you swim faster and more efficiently. Remember the buoys are huge yellow or orange colors so all you need to do is get a glance, and you’ll be able to sight properly. Another skill to work on is making sure you swim with a higher swim cadence because of the various environmental conditions of wind, waves and other competitors. An important skill that athletes will want to master is drafting in the water. Drafting in the water will help ensure you make it into a swim group and also allow you to save energy. The ideal swim position is directly behind someone’s feet, but just be aware that you want to give their feet just enough room to kick properly.  

Athletes will have the most success in open water when they are relaxed. Draft-legal racing is a more advanced style of racing, and for many athletes, it’s the first time they are swimming in large packs for an extended period in the water. Even advanced swimmers need to practice being comfortable in congested water. One drill I like to do is work on mass swim starts by putting three to four people in one lane and have them swim to the other end of the pool at the same time. This will help you practice swimming in choppy water and help you learn to stay relaxed around other swimmers. 

Transitions
Transition skills are where you can make up lost time on the swim. When you enter the transition, your goggles, swim cap and wetsuit must be dropped in the provided bin or you can be assessed a penalty. Draft-legal athletes mount their bikes with their shoes attached to their bike pedals with a rubber band. This allows them to quickly put on their helmet and grab their bike and head to the mount line. Remember that when you do a flying mount, the aim is to land with your feet on top of your shoes, spin up to speed and then get into your shoes which will help you catch the group ahead. Dismounting is done by keeping your shoes clipped into your pedal and riding the last 1/4th mile on top of your shoes. Make sure when you rack your bike, it is done by both handlebars or by the seat and is facing to the outside of transition. Before you leave transition make sure your helmet is placed in the provided bin as well. These skills can all be practiced in a grassy field and then when you feel comfortable, in a parking lot. 

Bike

When you are riding in a group pace line, it is important to communicate when you are rotating off the front, when a turn is ahead or when the last person can be ready to jump back into the pace line. One of the keys to draft-legal racing is the hard accelerations out of corners that occur in the bike packs. A simple rule to determine how many accelerations you need to be prepared for is to count the number of turns and the number of bike laps. So if one bike lap has 8 turns and it’s a 4-lap bike course, you will need to be prepared for 32 hard accelerations at minimum. Being in good position in the bike pack going into corners will also help you as it will determine how much you have to accelerate. If you are in the very back of the group, you will have to power out of the corner the longest to stay in the group. Making sure you are in a good gear to spin your way out of a turn is also important and can help save your run legs. Finally I would suggest learning to be comfortable riding in the drops on the road bike. That will help you power out of turns and improve cornering skills.    

Run
The run can be a challenge because of the hard accelerations you had to do on the bike leg. However, the key to a successful run is to always negative split, which means making sure the second part of the run is faster than the first part. This will give you confidence and the motivation to finish strong. Negative splitting the run starts with a smart run transition exit. You have to start the run at a manageable pace — not something that is 60 seconds faster than paces you can’t manage. Running strong on tired legs takes discipline and strong mechanics. One of the drills I make sure athletes work on is keeping their eyes looking down, 8-10 yards in front of them. This helps make sure they keep their head still, which saves energy and brings a good forward lean that allows them to not over stride. 

A key workout that I like to do is a multi-brick session at a track. Setup a trainer where you bike for 10 minutes at race intensity efforts then transition to a 1 mile run around the track. Try to do that three to four times in the lead up to races, and that will start to prepare you to running faster and more efficiently off the bike. 

Draft-legal racing is a great avenue into the sport of triathlon. It’s fast, fun and challenging. Mentally prepare yourself for the event, but always stay in the moment. Take each segment of the race and focus on it entirely, and then move onto the next segment. Control what you can control, and you will see success at draft-legal triathlon.  

Brooks Doughtie is head coach of All Out MultiSport located in Raleigh, N.C. A USA Triathlon Level II and Youth & Junior Certified Coach, Doughtie coaches the All Out draft legal athletes as part of a daily training environment. Acknowledgement goes to Kim Clark of Impact Multisport for the collaboration of information in this article.

 

Find A Coach

Click here to find a coach that specializes in draft-legal racing.

Youth and Junior Draft Legal Racing

Click here for more information on draft-legal racing as a youth or junior triathlete.