The triathlon season gets going this weekend with the Nuffield Health Sprints over at Eton Dorney rowing lake. It’s a lovely place when the weather’s good, and everyone is pleased to be getting back into triathlon for the summer. They are rarely the most remarkable races though, and while most of the office been down to Eton on numerous occasions both to race and exhibit for Yellow Jersey, we’ve never felt the need to write a blog about it.
This year things are a little different, and quite a lot more exciting.
This weekend will see one of the very first amateur triathlon events in the UK to feature draft legal racing with the Men’s and Women’s ITU qualification heats.
The International Triathlon Union announced that the 2016 ITU Age-Group sprint Triathlon World Championships in Mexico will be run under draft legal conditions in order to have more unity with the Elite competition. British Triathlon had to consider how their calendar should be changed in response to make sure Age-Groupers heading off to these World Champs would be prepared, by adjusting their own rules domestically.
British Triathlon’s AG Draft Legal update stated that all qualification events for world or European championships will be run with a draft legal format, and all non qualification events will be run with a draft illegal format. While this seems simple enough, the potential added danger of drafting has prompted British Triathlon to ‘consider whether to increase the number of qualification events for each championship, to reduce field sizes and therefore better ensure safety.’
If you are attending the races at the weekend, the most noticeable difference will likely be the bikes. Wheels will need at least 12 spokes, banning disks, and only traditional drop handlebars will be permitted. Clip on tri bars will also not be allowed, ensuring riders have access to their breaks and gears while riding in groups.
Effectively, this means a traditional time trial bike would be band in draft legal competitions. Not a huge surprise really, but for many triathletes their TT bike is their pride and joy, and potentially not being able to ride it in a significant number of races may be unwelcome news. Depending on the type of events you compete in, and your ambitions for 2016’s triathlon season, a TT bike may not be the same proposition it used to be. Many triathletes are likely to opt to upgrade their road bike instead.
Triathlon has long been seen by its competitors as a pure challenge of the individual. Each Triathlete is racing themselves and the course in three distinct disciplines, each of which requires its own dedicated training to improve. You don’t need to look far to find those who believe drafting challenges this notion. There are dozens of Facebook groups and pages dedicated to the idea that by drafting, this individual challenge is in some way diminished.
Fortunately, the speculation will be over when 7 waves of draft legal racing head off for their bike leg. Will the drafting events remove the individual challenge? Have your swim and bike times become a barely relevant warm up to a 5k foot race? We’ll have to wait and see on Sunday.
If you are in Eton this weekend for the races, make sure you keep your eye out for Yellow Jersey. We will be handing out our goodies to competitors and trying to make insurance sound interesting.