Gary Laybourne, Head of Retail Training and dedicated triathlete, explains how the upcoming changes to drafting rules in triathlon are set to change the game and what to consider when looking for new, compatible kit.
Okay, so I’m well aware of Rule #42 and more so, my colleagues ensure I don’t forget it! But the fact of the matter is that triathlon is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK and it shows no signs of abating.
Since 2009, participation has risen from 120,000 on the start line to just shy of 200,000. True, many come from non-cycling backgrounds and therefore have much to learn about the art of road riding but any multi-sport enthusiast will be rather proactive when it comes to researching new developments, they will spend a lot more time in the saddle than given credit for and what’s more, will be prepared to be spending the cash required to ensure all those hours of training across the three sports won’t go to waste.
Never more will this be tested than when the rules on the cycling leg dramatically change as of next year…
So what’s new?
The ITU (The International Triathlon Union) announced that, as of 2016, age group sprint triathlon and duathlon age group championships will be draft legal. The planned changes currently don’t affect standard distance and local level competitions but the general consensus is that due to its lower maintenance for race organisers and the excitement that bunch racing brings, it won’t be long until all distances and levels of competition will follow suit.
For the athletes it means three major things:
1) No more constantly focussing on the dreaded imaginary box with lots of men in high-viz jackets blowing whistles at you!
2) Triathletes will now have to learn how to ride in groups (e.g. sack off the turbo and embrace the crits!) as this is a skill that can make or break your race (and your limbs!)
3) Your beloved time trial bike with more curves and gadgets than a Bond movie, will sadly have to be saved for your local TTs only.
Why? Well, for a start, tri bars are banned from draft legal racing and so are disc wheels. And don’t get started on the potential to clamp down on aero forks, seat posts, etc., etc. ! As for kit, teardrop TT helmets will also have to go…
But it’s not all doom and gloom as you can now approach that significant other in your life with a genuine reason for needing to bring yet another bike into the house rather than some nonsense excuse about the decal peeling off or your mechanic telling you the cassette is done so you better buy a whole new bike….
All jokes aside, there is no reason to feel the costs that those bank-busting triathlon purchases caused in the first place and, for those new to the sport and aspiring to age group racing, hopefully the following guide will help you continue the quest without leaving you having to remortgage!
Dependent on your budget, you want to be looking for a ride that offers:
– a lightweight, aggressive frame set-up for fast riding but conform to the ‘double diamond’ rule of frame composition
– a groupset that has a race-ready set-up and reflects the fact that you need to put the power down most of the time
– a decent aero wheelset as these are not outlawed (so long as they are 16 spoke minimum and conform to the maximum rim depth).
Take a look at models such as the Cannondale SuperSix Evo, Bianchi Athena, Specialized Venge and the Fuji Transonic (which, in this triathlete’s very humble opinion, is the best pound for pound bike I rode all last year).
You can then place clip-on tri bars (if you wish) onto all these models, ensuring that they do not go past the brake levers in length, are not connected (i.e. are two separate bars) and brake/gear levers are not attached to the clip-ons. Consideration needs to be given to wheelset, forks and seat post, dependent on the race you select, but ultimately, there is enough choice here to keep the speed despite sacrificing the aero position and TT kit.
Aero time trial helmets might be a no-go but there has been major developments in the past couple of years to the classic road helmet which mean you can still cut through the wind like a hot knife through butter without having to opt for the traditional teardrop-shaped TT model.
– Louis Garneau Course helmet with vents that ‘close off’ when you go onto the drops
– Specialized Evade which is said to shave off an impressive 46secs over 40km
– the Giro Air Attack that offers 70% more cooling than the long tail TT helmet at a cost of only 10% less aerodynamic capability.
It’s definitely an announcement that has major repercussions across the ITU community and one that will inevitably mean a rethink on your kit and equipment. But by doing so, not only do you conform to the new rulings in triathlon but by investing in a draft legal bike and bike helmet, you are opening up a whole new world of racing that will ultimately enhance your performance and love of the wonderful world of cycling!
Here’s to an exciting future of ‘flicking an elbow’, ‘holding a wheel’ and ‘chasing the break’!