UPDATE: Registration for Overdrive has been extended until this Wednesday October 25 at 6pm ET. There will be no race day registration. Don’t miss out on your last chance to qualify for a fantastic experience on Fyn, Denmark!!
Many of us know the story draft legal racing from seeing it on TV or on TriathlonLive: swim (or run) your butt off on the first leg to get yourself into the best group possible, fly through transition so as not to lose said group while you’re switching into bike mode, and then respond to the bike/run portion of the race as necessary while doing your best to stay sheltered in the pack on the bike. Obviously, some adjustments are made for the relative strengths and weaknesses of athletes in a particular group (or in the case of the Brownlees, the sad realization that unless it’s 40C outside then you are kind of hooped), but in general the basic principles remain.
However, starting last year the ITU threw us a curveball: Age Group draft legal racing. The specifics have been discussed at length on this site, but we haven’t had a chance to look at the dynamics of a draft legal race featuring age groupers. One of the defining characteristics of elite draft legal racing is the razor-thin differences in ability between athletes in the race (as well as separate races for men and women). This is made possible by the limited field size of elite ITU racing. But with age group racing the numbers are simply too large for separate races to be feasible, and the wide range of ability levels further compound the structure of the race.
Races try several strategies to combat this. Since the institution of AG draft legal racing, Canadian athletes have had access to 6 races with drafting. Two races stuck with what they had and offered non-draft races as well, which kept registration down (Esprit 2016 and Boucherville 2017), two used difficult bike courses to break up the packs (Penticton 2017 and Overdrive 2017), and two used long laps with technical portions or hills (Aviles 2016 and Edmonton 2016) to keep the groups separated. These races were all characterized by closed roads to increase space on the course, and wave starts. Let’s take a look at each of them:
2016 ITU World Championships (Aviles, Spain)
This was the first chance for Canadian athletes to experience draft legal racing. The sprint course took place on 1.5 laps of a pretty technical course, with a few ups and downs but no big climbs. In true Canadian fashion, many athletes reported wanting to work with other athletes, only to be blocked by the larger team tactics of the more experienced European athletes waiting for the run (especially closer to the front of the race). Karri Beck of Ontario reported the most positive experience in Aviles, working cohesively with a group of 6 other women (including 3 passengers) on her way to a strong result. In the absence out big hills to separate groups, the single lap course kept overlapping to a minimum.
WTS Edmonton AG Duathlon (2016)
The AG duathlon portion of the popular WTS Edmonton triathlon weekend also doubled as the sprint duathlon Canadian Championships. Over 70 athletes traveled in to take on a challenging 10km bike course including a steep test up past Emily Murphy Park, a climb popularized in this year’s edition of WTS Edmonton.
Carrie Allen of B.C. had some excellent thoughts from the second wave of the race, as she used the tough first half of the course to overcome a poor first transition in frigid conditions and ride up to Erin Linton and Lisa Evered. The trio linked up with two athletes from the previous wave completing their second lap to pick up time on athletes further back in their wave, and lost Evered during the back half of the first lap. The gap they gained on the second lap enabled Linton (who transitioned well to the run) and Allen to hold off Evered in the Masters race.
Montreal Esprit Sprint Duathlon (2016)
Just 6 days after Edmonton, Triathlon Canada’s second draft legal qualifier for Worlds in Penticton took place on Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal. The race took place on the existing course, a wide but flat 4.5km circuit.
The flat nature of the course exposed riders who found themselves isolated, and Karri Beck once again provided some excellent insight on the race. Finding herself solo after dispatching a slightly weaker rider early on, she latched on to a freight train containing Natalie Wright and Sylvie Charest, using her run to then move up a couple spots further than she would have finished had she not latched on to that small but cohesive group on the bike.
2017 ITU World Multisport Championships (Penticton, B.C.)
The next opportunity for draft legal racing didn’t come until August 2017, at the very event that Edmonton and Esprit were qualifiers for. The course was more along the lines of Edmonton than Esprit, with a short but very steep climb followed by a rolling 10km lap and a screaming descent back to transition. Our editor got a first-hand look at elite draft legal racing (link above), and the age-groupers faced a stiff test as well.
The front groups were able to work well together, though Jeremy Hopwood‘s account described a course that was either too demanding or too flat to really break up similar athletes. The front groups maintained some pretty strong packs, while further back the groups got smaller. The gradients of Vancouver Avenue (not to mention the descent just 8km later) was just too demanding and divisive to allow MOPers to form cohesive groups so soon after a hard 5.2km run.
Duathlon de Boucherville (2017)
Which brings us to our most recent event, Duathlon de Boucherville. Our last article was a detailed account of this race, which was the culmination of all of the learning athletes have been able to avail themselves of during the four races above. It was a thrilling watch, and was the race that most closely resembled the races we mentioned in the first paragraph. This all occurred despite a tight course with little challenge to break up the pack. It was a great sign for draft legal racing in Canada, as were the smiles all over the course!
So What’s Next? Overdrive Duathlon in Ontario
Ontario hosts its first ever draft legal duathlon this coming weekend, on the Canadian Tire Motorsports Track. The course features a difficult elevation profile and technical elements as well as a closed course on an excellent surface, combining the best features of all of the courses above. Racers sort themselves out over the first two corners, before diving down a fast descent to the bottom of the track into a tight hairpin. The “slower half” of the course rises at an average 2% grade, but contains sections with much steeper pitches. The tree-lined course also offers terrific shelter from the elements. The community seems to be rallying behind the event, causing registration numbers to double within 5 days last week.
The race promises to be fast and furious fun, as a strong age group contingent will likely be joined by several elites in the draft legal event. The standard distance will also see a return to racing by AG World Champion Matt Straatman as he looks for a provincial title over the longer distance. It all adds up to an exciting day of racing, one that you won’t want to miss. The registration deadline was extended to
Monday, October 23rd Wednesday, October 25 at 6:00pm ET, so get online and get your registration in before it’s too late!
We’ll have more on the race after it’s run, in the same fashion as our Boucherville report. We’ll see you at the races, so until next time…keep Du’ing it!