There has been a good bit of talk in the last few days about drafting in the pro ranks, specifically at the Rev3 Quassy race. Most of it has sprung from the picture in the Slowtwitch gallery that I referenced in my race report. I'm usually not one to speak out publicly and prefer to keep my head down and go about working my butt off, but I find the debate pretty interesting. Since I can unequivocally state I was unaided by the pack and could argue that the pack dynamic cost me a bit of money (maybe, maybe not), I figure I'm allowed to throw my hat in the ring. Here it goes:
First, a point of reference. I've only gotten one penalty in my life and it was a stagger penalty off of Bjorn Andersson at Rev3 Cedar Point full distance race 3-4 years back. For those who know Bjorn and who know how I was riding back then, it's comical to think I could stay with him for more than 10 seconds, but I was apparently un-staggered at a distance of 100m or so and that's a penalty. I accept that, as much as the 4 min stand down hurt. So what I'm saying is I guess I'm as 'clean' as you can get.
Second, if you haven't read it, see Brandon Marsh's post on the race posted HERE. I respect him and his racing and he has a great deal of experience He was given a penalty over the weekend toward the end of the bike. I won't agree/disagree/comment on his post other than to agree that it's a bit silly to ding him without dinging everyone, let alone after letting it go un-penalized for 2 hours!
Now, my thoughts. I'll keep it brief. The rules may be a bit inane, but we all know them and start each race with how they will affect us. Being a swimmer, I know they are not in my favor but that doesn't mean I am going to complain. Do I resent the guys who can ride at the edge of legal, save their legs, and run me down? NO, in fact I wish I had the run legs to do just that. I would definitely be less sore than I am right now typing this. Do I think it's cheating? NO, because the rules are the rules and they are followed. Do I think they should be changed? Of course, but I also think the swim should be roughly 10k uphill also.
Of course there are athletes who are known to push the limits of legal and look to race outside the rules. I think that is despicable, but I think those athletes are in the minority. I believe if the rules were changed to make the draft zone larger or to alter the stagger rule, there would still be cheaters just like there are dopers who still compete. Officials have a tough job of interpreting the rules at high speeds and I give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to enforcement since they gain nothing from giving/not giving penalties. We always have a pre-race meeting and everything is covered ad nausuem.
I don't do ITU racing because the rules make it prohibitive for me to do well given my run speed. I wish drafting were a non-issue and the results of every race where a direct reflection of a completely individual effort. The rules may be able to be altered and technology like gps/tracking could be implemented to help, but as for now I'm going to keep racing hard within the current rules.