Q+A: How do I deal with being drafted in a race?

Posted: 10 January 2011

Q. I've been drafted in a race. How do I deal with this?

A. Drafting on the bike leg is an occasional unwanted occurrence in triathlon in which another athlete sits directly behind you during the bike leg, thereby reducing their air resistance, which saves energy. Drafting is not allowed in age-group racing.

There is always a stipulated minimum distance that must separate two riders, and a maximum time given to overtake another rider. These numbers vary so find out the information before you race.

If you find yourself with a drafter in tow, you have to decide on the action you'll take right then and after the race. During your event the important thing is not to blow your own race by being aggressive in your response. It's tempting to lose your temper or to up the pace to try to lose the guilty party. However, it's likely you'll simply use up valuable energy. Instead, tell the other rider that what they are doing is against the rules. Ask them once, maybe twice. If they refuse to drop back or overtake you, make a note of their race number.

Don't do any manoeuvres that might endanger either yourself or those around you. You may see referees (sometimes known as 'draftbusters') on motorcycles during your bike leg and their job is to sort out such problems.

If the situation is still unresolved, ignore the drafter and continue your race as if he isn't there. After you've finished, seek out the event's chief referee as soon as possible and report the guilty party's race number to them. Hopefully, they'll penalise or disqualify them.

Packs of riders sometimes form in races but the important thing is to play
fair, stay within the rules and race your own race. Racing under your own steam is what the sport is all about and drafting is basically cheating.

Bruce Dyer

Bryce Dyer  is Senior Lecturer in Product Design at Bournemouth University's School of Design, Engineering and Computing, and is a member of the Design Management Institute. He is conducting research into sports technology used by elite athletes. He is a passionate cyclist and triathlete and has competed internationally in his age group in four sports, in events ranging from a 1K track pursuit to Ironman.

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Nice article, butI'm afraid completely wide of the mark. The nervous energy you use up getting annoyed by drafters is far more debilitating than using a bit of power to get rid of them.

 My advice is as follows. All drafters sit in behind other riders because they are weak, so exploit your strength. Wait for the next little rise in the road, and attack the bottom of the climb really hard. Within 3 or 4 seconds the drafter will be off your wheel. It's always a nice touch to look over your shoulder, wave and smile as they disappear behind you!

 Tried this many times in races and it always works. And it makes you feel really strong which sets you up nicely for the rest of the race.

Posted: 13/01/2011 at 16:01

I can think of several races where I have slowly closed the gap on a competitor ahead but would need more that the alloted time to really get past unless I really go for it, burn up and end up paying for the effort.

When they realise that the gap has been closed they start putting in little sprints, and I close the gap again. I am not drafting. I'm trying to get by as best I can.

When I first started triathlon 21 years ago I seem to recall that the competitor being overtaken had to give way? Trouble with that is that I am a strong swimmer, does that mean I have to keep giving way to every weaker swimmer  as they catch me up. 

I think folks should get a life, Next thing you know there will be a call for lane ropes so there is no barging about in the swim!! Imagine rounding a swim bouy saying 'no after you!'

I would like to see the elite races as being none drafting. It's getting to be a real bore seeing a pack going around and then a 10k raod race.


Posted: 13/01/2011 at 16:23

ignore them, ride your own race and let the draft busters deal with them
Posted: 13/01/2011 at 16:30

simple - if you have a persistent wheel sucker, grab your fuel bottle, stick it over you shoulder and squeeze. sure, they won't be happy being sprayed and will bleat like buggery but they are the cheating bastards not you.

or stand up and act is you're about to pee - they soon drop back.....

there is always going to be an element of accidental/non-deliberate drafting if you have 2 riders of comparable speeds vying to get past each other - they aren't the problem, it's the deliberate drafters who are.
Posted: 13/01/2011 at 16:33

Slam the brakes on, get off, smash his face in - Simples
Posted: 13/01/2011 at 22:10

I was completely unaware I had someone drafting off me during Windsor last year until I cleared my nostrils

Posted: 14/01/2011 at 11:55

I seem to recall that the competitor being overtaken had to give way?

Once you've been overtaken, it is your responsibility to make sure you're out of the draft zone. On the flip side - once you've overtaken you can pull in and it becomes the person you've just taken's responsibility to keep back.

Posted: 14/01/2011 at 13:25

Competitor in Keswick Tri 2010 had the answer - wear a Borat mankini to race in, no-one wants to sit behind that! Unfortunately he got disqualified for nipple violation
Posted: 15/01/2011 at 22:13

TBH I think I would have drafted off him deliberately....

Posted: 15/01/2011 at 22:28

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