We had 6 club members compete in the Ottawa Nationals Sprint Draft Legal race. We asked them some questions about their experience with this event and if they'd do it again Find out what they thought below:
Before completing the Ottawa Draft Legal National Championships on July 24, What concerns did you have going into the race? Any equipment changes or nutrition concerns or more apprehension of possible drafting scenarios?
As a regular rider in a cycling group I was not worried about my ability to draft, or riding my road bike for this race. However, I was nervous about drafting with riders who had no experience drafting.
Triathletes are a lot better than I expected at riding in groups. Everyone knew the basics and even took turns pulling in the front. Groups that planned ahead will try to drop you too. Be prepared for surges out of corners and up climbs and do not let those wheels go.
Going in, I was most worried about the bike. When I committed to do the race, I knew I’d have to get some very beginner drafting skills under my belt and I did that with the TTC draft clinic and some group rides. I was comfortable riding close to others but really wasn’t prepared for being in pack - what the etiquette was, how it would be “organized” for taking turns pulling, falling back, etc. I was also really concerned about hydration on the bike. Because I’d only raced with a torpedo on my tri bike, I was not used to pulling my water bottle at race speeds - never mind race speeds while riding someone’s wheel.
After it was announced that worlds sprint AG races were embracing a draft legal format, a lot of athletes expressed their concerns about bike safety issues. Other athletes with a junior/u23/elite racing background welcomed or where indifferent to the idea.
I was a bit concerned that there would be big packs and that all it would take is one person to wobble and lots of people would go down, especially because for most people, this would be their first draft legal race, with no draft training. But since I didn’t have a pack, it was a non issue for me.
My main concern was the uncertainty of the drafting skills of other AG women before going to the race and whether we would all utilize the benefit of the draft, communicate well and work together to share the work load. I wasn’t sure if people would want to work together or treat it like a regular triathlon. Race strategy was another concern. How much work can you/ should you do to still have legs for the run.
After having completed the race, what are your take-away’s/ what did you learn after having completed the race?
I have learned a lot - first, that I can do draft races and not die! I also learned that I have a lot to learn about how to be strategic in a pack and to get more comfortable being there. Also, to learn how to get drink water going fast!
According to the race organizers and perhaps shocking to some critics, no crashes were reported in any of the AG races. I supposed you can see this from many perspectives: the people who were worried about crashing likely didn't sign up for it so it left us all without many nervous bike handlers, hence improving the safety of the group rides. This also reduced the number of riders and traffic. Notwithstanding, and in my biased opinion, perhaps it is not as treacherous as some think due to the following reasons: road bikes are definitely more agile than TT bikes, no disks on crosswinds, no aerobars or clip ons of any kind (another great modification from standard ITU rules: banning draft legal clip-ons for AG riders), no riders swerving out of a draft-ish position at the sudden view of a race official ;-)
The draft legal format changes the race tactics from a mostly time trial effort strategy (i.e. just figure out how to pace yourself) to a more complex situation (e.g. should I let this guy sit on my wheel or force him to work a bit with me in case he is a good runner?). In my view, this adds a bit more excitement to the race. But then again, other triathletes might feel as if this is not what triathlon is about and prefer a time trial format.
Do not get dropped. If you're lucky enough to find a good group early in the bike, hang on to those wheels no matter what. If they're too fast, you may have a chance to drop to a slower group when you overtake them but if you get dropped you're in a really bad position. You're not going to catch up to anyone worth riding with and it may be a while until a pack of slower swimmers catches you, if there are any riding in an effective group.
Find a pack!
It was great to not worry about drafting penalties. In non-drafting races it is extremely annoying to watch drafting packs (in every race) go by and seemingly not care they are cheating. It would be nice if there was a drafting certification requirement for these races to ensure everyone is on the same page with how to communicate, pass, pull, and fall back
Working with a team-mate make and communicating with your other athletes makes this a better experience and more successful race. Don’t be afraid to talk to other athletes during the race and suggest they take a pull. Don’t react suddenly, but be alert at all times. Drink and eat while you are recoverying on someone’s wheel but keep your eyes up. You need to jump on opportunities (to grab a wheel or get out of a long line of bike traffic) when the present themselves to make the most of the drafting advantage. Not everyone may be willing to pull their own weight in a draft pack and you can’t expect them to.
Would you do another Draft-Legal race again?