Draft legal sprint Triathlon

I’ve been training for an age group qualifier following the Sprint tri mid volume plan, however foolishly I failed to notice that the event is Draft Legal. This changes the whole dynamic of the bike portion, so I’m wondering if I’d be better switching to the Criterium speciality plan? What are your thoughts?

Since it’s still a sprint, I’m going to bet that the actual race day tactics won’t be that different. Passing in a non-draft legal triathlon has its own needs, and amateur draft legal triathlons, you will probably not get in to a pack style dynamic like you would in a criterium. More than likely, you can pick your way through the field, sit in when you want to, maybe get a group of people to work together for portions, maybe not, but you won’t have to worry about surging ahead of someone during the legal passing duration.


Not a crit, not really that close. Still best off training Sustained Power.

Draft legal tris are about the swim and the run. If anything you want to train your swim as much as possible so you can come out of the water with the front or close enough to the front that you can make up time in transition or close the gap down quickly.

Transitions, particularly T1 if you’re not a spectacular swimmer, matter a lot. Practice and perfect T1 so you can gain any time lost in the swim. I qualified for worlds because of my transitions one year. Several of the guys I beat out had slightly faster splits than me, but I gained almost two minutes (!) in transition on them.

The ride itself depends on where you come out of the water, and how big and strong the field is. You certainly want to find a group, but it needs to be a cohesive one, and you want to cooperate. Again, it’s about getting off the bike as fresh as possible and winning the run. Attacks will almost certainly be brought back, and unless you know you are far and away the best cyclist and can’t win on the run, you’re better off cooperating with the group. Don’t be surgey, just maintain speed on your pulls. Work together to bridge gaps. If you surge, there’s a good chance a stronger rider will attack you and split the group, which really sucks if you’re on the front when the attack happens. Ask me how I know…:unamused:

If the field is small or not particularly strong, it could end up like any other sprint. I’ve done draft legal races where I rode largely alone and others where it was very much paceline or group work. Just depends on the field. If you’re alone, just dip in and out of drafts as much as possible depending on the layout of the course and the field (start times, laps? Etc.)

Edit: you’ll want to check the bike setup rules. You may not be able to use a common tri bike or have limits on aero bars and such if it’s under UCI or ITU rules.


This. I don’t think anybody is going to want to try and make the bike surgey. It’s probably going to be a bunch of riders trying to cover the distance as fast and smooth as possible while working together. But you want to make sure you end up with the fast riders so at the very least you have to be as fast a swimmer as them. If you come out of the water before them, great, they can catch up to you on the bike and then you can join them. But here the swim is going to be the key.


In my one particular moment of idiocy in a draft legal race, I didn’t want to make it surgey, but young, dumb me was excited, got on the front, and did a hero pull, gapped a few guys, and then got countered about 30s in and had no legs to jump on the train. The group split apart and I was one of the few who got left in the dust because I was stupid. My run was fast, but I still had a MOP finish because I’d lost too much time flying solo or with a small slower group on the bike. I would’ve been much better off just cooperating and keeping the group steady.

Let’s just go with “Don’t be the guy that makes it surgey.” as a good rule.


I am by no means a fast front of the pack swimmer but I’m making great progress and if I’m on a good day I reckon I should be able to hang with maybe the 2nd tier guys and then hopefully we can form a strong bike group before I get blown away on the run :joy:

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Definitely work sustained power (probably fine with the sprint tri plan). I’m guessing the race will probably be a lot more like a normal sprint than you’re guessing. As @Michael_Tate said, the worst thing that happens is you come out of the water by yourself, in which case you can try to bridge up (sustained power) or you can wait for a group to form behind and work into the rotation. Either way, you’re not going to be attacking and countering over and over again in a triathlon.

Tips on crushing transition like that? I lost a lot of time there last year (first year).

I keep thinking I should make a video for this since it’s easier to watch than describe! Overall, as with your race, keep your wits about you. If something doesn’t go perfectly, let it go. Just keep your head, remain calm, and execute. I’ve made more mistakes in transition trying to get things perfect than any other way; once I accepted it was never going to be perfect, I got even faster through it.

Anyway, so stuff I do:

Key to transition is your setup:

  1. Be a minimalist. If you’re doing a sprint under an hour, you probably don’t need water or any kind of nutrition. No bottles or cages on your bike; if you must, a bottle in transition for a quick swig of water. You don’t need socks as long as you’ve got your feet conditioned to it. Literally the only thing I have on my transition towel when I go to the water is my running shoes, maybe sunglasses (arms open, of course!).
  2. Race belt with number goes on under your wetsuit. When your wetsuit comes off, your race belt is already on. Yep, it’s wet, but it’ll hold up.
  3. Helmet goes on your aerobars so you have to put it on before grabbing the bike off the rack. Don’t mess with sunglasses - use a helmet visor if you have one (it’s also more aero).
  4. I clip my bike shoes (Sidi tri shoes) into the pedals. I use rubber bands through the big loop in the back to hold them level. The left band goes over the quick release on the rear axle; the right I usually hook around the front derailleur mount. Then I can run out of T1 and do a flying mount onto the bike, and get my feet in the shoes. Start pedaling, 80% of the time the rubber bands break and fall away, the other 20 you might have to pull one off while moving… no big deal. I worry about strapping my shoes in when I’m already moving at a decent pace. This takes practice.

T1 Execution:

  • Exiting the water, cap and goggles come off and into one hand.

  • “Half mast” your wetsuit as you run from water to transition. Unzip, arms out, and fold halfway down. As you pull the sleeves off, simply let go of your cap and goggles in the sleeve; hold that sleeve as you run to keep it out of the way. This helps make sure all your stuff stays together, too. Here’s what this looks like, right out of the water:

  • Don’t run too hard… but run. Nice aerobic pace such that you’re catching your breath a bit, but still moving well and maybe passing people.

  • PRACTICE taking your wetsuit off. It should be one or two big pushes to get it over your butt and to your shins, then if it fits right and you’ve practiced, you should be able to simply step on your suit with one foot, and kick your other foot out of your suit… repeat… you’re out. A little bit of body glide on your achilles can help.

  • Once the suit is off, flip it out of the way, helmet on, grab bike, push the button on your computer, and run to the exit. I usually run with my bike while holding the seat, but again, that takes some practice. I find I can move faster/better when holding the seat.

  • Flying mount across the mount line. If you miss your shoes, pedal on top of your shoes until you get up to speed (close to race speed), then pull off to the right as you slow down and strap in. Point is, be moving the whole time. Use single pedal strokes to keep speed if you need to. PRACTICE

  • You can do a flying mount without rubber bands, just practice getting into your shoes while moving either way. In fact, it’s a good idea to get proficient at pedaling on top of your shoes and getting into your shoes while moving, in the event that you miss your shoes on your mount… which happens.


  • Flying dismount: Maybe 200m short of transition, unstrap your shoes. I do this by unstrapping one shoe, pedaling a couple of times, then hitting the other. Holding speed… remove your feet from the shoes and pedal on top of your shoes in a similar fashion. One foot out, pedal a few strokes, other foot out. Pedal on your shoes as needed… As you approach transition the final 20m or so, take your right leg up over your seat behind you, keep your weight on your left foot and lean your bike to the right if you need to. Roll the final few meters to the dismount line as you brake, then step off… always on the non-drive side. (A few pros are going drive side now… no idea why you’d want to do that.) PRACTICE THIS. When I’m rusty, I’ll unclip my left shoe when I’m stepping off. You shouldn’t.
  • Once you’re off, grab your seat and run to your spot.
  • Rack your bike first, then helmet off.
  • Running shoes on. Use some kind of speed lacing system. I like Xtenex X laces personally, but whatever works for you.
  • Run out of transition.

T1 should take 20 seconds or less at your spot. T2 should take about 10. You only get like this… with practice. Short distance triathlon is a four-sport event: Swim-Bike-Run+transitions. In some cases, I’ve seen guys spend as much time in transition as they do in the water. Many people, especially those who typically race 70.3s and Iron distance just don’t practice transitions for sprints. You can have a real advantage if you dial it in and practice it. Like… minutes in some cases.

Check out YouTube; there are lots of videos on flying mounts and dismounts, probably a few on transition execution as well. But that’s my guide going on 13 years of triathloning, with the majority being sprints.


There are some great tips in there, thanks very much

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Was literally about to start a new topic on this subject (but with draft legal duathlon rather than tri), but some good tips on here. I too was thinking of changing from a Sprint Tri plan (I skip the swims and do bike and runs from it) to more of a crit bike plan (plus 3 runs a week) due to draft legal part.