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

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.