I have been racing triathlon for over 20 years, including five Ironmans. I raced as a professional duathlete for over five years qualifying and racing overseas on Elite Team USA. These were draft legal (DL) at the highest level but still just the run and bike. After racing triathlon for so many years, this has been a new and exciting challenge and a reason to mix up my training. Each DL race is different and it is so fun to rehash what happened with fellow athletes at the finish line because of that!
Fast forward to the past several years, as an age grouper qualifying and racing in ITU World Championships sprint triathlons which are now draft legal. In fact, this year’s DL world championship qualifier it will be called a National Championship for the first time and happens to be held in my hometown, Sarasota, FL at Benderson Park.
DL racing has encouraged me to try to up my swim in part because it is a bit longer than some sprints at 750 meters. Having a stronger swim is also advantageous in order to get with a lead or stronger to pack to work with on the bike. I am glad that I have found my tribe in the early hours at our outdoor pool for 5:30 to 7am masters swim.
Fast transitions are key to get on the back of the pack perhaps waiting to slip into bike shoes until getting on the back of the pack.
The bike itself has to meet ITU requirements which are basically a road bike without aero bars and the helmet cannot have a long aero tail. I find a road bike to be so much more comfortable and responsive. I am happy that my weekly training partner also rides a road bike. The bike can be very exciting for spectators. It is typically several loops and great to watch and see if the packs stay together and who is moving up. It requires frequent surges and decisions to be made like “Should I stay with this slower pack or surge out on my own in hopes of catching the front packs?” We want to have short pulls to keep the cadence high while passing or pulling off on either side, cutting the tangents in the road so it makes for a true challenge requiring great bike handling skills.
After riding, the run becomes a real race to see who has what left in the tank. Racing on Team USA is such an exciting experience and with the draft legal we can actually hope to work together and communicate effectively on the bike if possible. The ITU and Olympic races are all draft-legal triathlons, also. It is great to see all the young team and college teams racing in this style.
We are looking forward to racing the ITU DL Triathlon World Championships on Team USA on September 13th in Gold Coast, Australia.
Written by Rachel Chambers, Siren Luminary
Follow Rachel on Instagram! @rachelchambersrd