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Coach Steve being aero!

home » advice from a former wheelsucker

First I have to tell a story... After finishing the OD Triathlon Nationals one year I was quite pleased to have a solid 'podium' finish among a deep field. But, when I looked at the results, I found a 2-minute 'blocking' penalty that in effect knocked me off of the podium. Scanning the bike splits, I had the fastest time of the day overall. A blocking penalty is assessed when you spend more than 15 seconds to the left of another rider. The intent of the rule is so you always stay on the right unless passing. I found the head referee for the day to plead my case and posed the question: "Since I had the fastest bike split of the day, who was I blocking." He had no answer; yes, I am a wise ass.

My endurance sports background prior to multisports is bike racing—where I rode about 1000 races over 17-seasons! For those of you not familiar with bike racing speak, 'wheelsucking' refers to drafting. Without drafting skills one cannot survive a bike race.

While age group duathlon and triathlon is not draft legal, you can still use other riders to go faster. One way is to simply stay right at the margin of legal distance behind another rider. You can get some draft effect at 3.5 bike lengths behind another rider. The faster you're going the more draft effect you get. Under 20mph you'll get no significant drafting effect, but some riders can push the pace when following another.

To maximize any draft effect make sure you're downwind in the best possible position. If there's a wind blowing from your right side, the best draft pocket will be slightly to the left side of the rider you're following. For those of you who watch bike racing, this is why the peloton (pack of riders) moves in an echelon formation diagonally across the road on a race day with crosswinds.

If you're lucky enough to be a frequent passer use the draft as you pass. It's legal to come right up on the wheel of another rider as long as you continue past and complete the pass within 15-seconds. As bike racers we would use this to maximize speed passing another rider, opening a gap quickly. Accelerate as you roll into the rider's draft and move left at the last possible second with lots of momentum. The faster you're going as you pass, the less likely the passed rider will try to mach your speed.

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