Draft legal triathlon

Does anyone have thoughts/experience with draft-legal triathlon? I’m toying with the idea of trying my hand at draft-legal racing this year (du nationals actually) and am trying to figure out how my training would look.

I’m thinking to focus on the Olympic tri plan but add in a workout each week from short power build/criterium plans??

Also… group rides lol

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Resurrecting this thread as starting to do some sprint duathalons but quite a few near me have become draft legal.
Any tips? Bit gutted as I’m better cyclist than runner and feel that I lose some advantage with draft legal - I assume first run becomes far more important (similar to swim becoming more vital in draft legal tri)?

@Nate_Pearson @chad - any advice on draft legal triathlons or duathalons…worth sticking with standard tri plans (or usual time trial type work) or switching to more shorter power criterium/road race plans?

Not sure, I would day trip off the top of my head because of the run/swim balance.

@RobertSims, I’d probably consider mixing in the Criterium specialty plan when it came to that phase of training. This is a good question that I’d like to address more thoroughly though, so I’ll ask @Jonathan to add it to next week’s (not this Thursday’s) podcast fodder.

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That would be great - will listen to the podcast in anticipation! Many thanks to you and all the team at TR. Also just for duathlons in general - better to do the Tri plans (and just skip the swims), or do the cycling (TT plans or whatever) and add in own runs…or doesn’t matter much!

It’s something I was considering as I looked at the course routes of two (non-draft) olympics I was hoping to do June/July both, one was loops of a fairly steep couple of hills and two “foot-down” stops for traffic, the other was flat but had a lots (and lots) of dead turns (180 degree turns).

This seems to be common in the UK at least, where as I’m used to longer course routes where it is definitely continuous power efforts. I decided to do SSB MV and Sustained Power to the hilly one, then Criterium to the one filled with dead turns.

Then the world changed.

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Hi @chad is it tomorrow’s podcast this in included? Cheers

Hi @chad @Jonathan . Is this planned for an upcoming podcast? Cheers

Sorry I’ve missed this thread so long… I’ve raced a few ITU draft-legal events, so some tips (I’m assuming you are competing, not just interested in finishing here):

  • Swim and T1 are critical if you want to compete at the pointy end. If you’re not with the first group out of the water, your race could be over. If you botch T1 and don’t get latched on with that first group, the race could be over.
  • Practice drafting in the water. You need to be able to stay in a single draft for the entire swim, and also be able to recognize when you’re in the wrong draft and do what you can to get in the right one early.
  • Even moreso than regular triathlons, you must-must-must have some speed in the swim to get out quickly and get on the feet of some slightly stronger swimmers.
  • Did I mention you need to swim well?
  • And get your T1 dialed - flying mount, shoes clipped in, kick out of your wetsuit… everything. You should be down to ~15s actually standing at your bike in T1… less is better. I qualified for Worlds almost entirely on the back of my transitions as my splits were no faster than the guys I beat… but my transitions crushed theirs.

For the bike, there are a couple of considerations:

  • If you’re a strong enough swimmer and a strong runner, you can just sit in and do your work. I wouldn’t think you’d need a crit plan for that, but it’s not the worst option.
  • If you’re not a strong swimmer and you’re going to need to try to pull people back with a group (or solo), I’d do sustained power build.
  • Draft legal tris (in my somewhat limited experience) are not nearly as surge-y as a crit. Repeatable power isn’t going to play as big of a role as it does in road racing. You need to survive any surges that come, but attacking repeatedly is a recipe for a horrendous run, so most aren’t going to go that route. If someone does, odds are it’s because they know they can’t survive the run and they’re hoping to take down as many people as they can and get a gap on the bike.
  • So in the end, the bike becomes about your strength and ability to conserve energy on that leg. That happens by:
  1. Strong swim (did I mention that?)
  2. Fast T1 to be with the front group.
  3. Do your work, be strong but don’t SURGE the group when you pull (people WILL attack you if you do that).
  4. Conserve and fuel for the run.

Then get off the bike, T2 as fast as humanly possible and run like the wind.

Gun to my head for a draft-legal Oly bike training on TR, I’d recommend SSB1/2 -> Sustained (or General Build) -> pick a specialty… I think I’d do climbing RR or maybe rolling RR if I wanted more short burst work. 40K TT or the Oly tri plan if you don’t think you’re going to get out of the water with a good group and will need to do it all yourself. It really just depends on how you think you’re going to race it.

Let me know if you have other questions, I’ll do what I can to answer.


I dunno, sure, the swim, but aren’t most people who are about to do their first draft-legal race content just to taste the experience and have a good day?

I was destroyed in my first - and so far only - draft-legal tri. I could barely hang on to zone 2 at the end of the bike, having overcooked the first half of the bike in two ways (too hard, too spikey).

I really look forward to this. With no swimming right now and races on hold I have thought about doing Short Power Build but would love if there was something in the Plan builder that could properly slot in the runs.

Many thanks. 100% looking to compete, not just finish! It’s actually draft legal duathlons I do rather than triathlons so I guess substitute word swim for 1st run in your tips! Also usually Sprint rather than Olympic distance - not sure if that changes training much

I’m focusing on running (As more of a cyclist) but likely will be little way off after run 1 (say 30-40 secs) so will need to make up some on bike. Think general build is way forward to cover all bases (more so than tri builds).
Like idea of climbing road race as speciality (along with my own run plans).

Also need to work on raising power on TT bike. Ftp of 307W per ramp test and can hold 290-300W for 40+ mins on road bike…but struggle to put out much more than 240W on TT bike for 10 miles (around 23/24 mins) - any tips???

The intent of my post wasn’t to tell anyone how they should personally go into an event. Instead, in order to give good training advice, I had to make an assumption. If you’re just going to finish, you can essentially do any base-build-specialty equivalent that will leave you with an adequate aerobic base to complete the distance. Moreso than standard tris, how you train for draft-legal tris really depends on your strengths, weaknesses, and how you’re planning to race. That said, at the pointy end, most races come down to strong swim - strong run.

@chad would have to give you the best advice on the duathlon side. I’ve only ever raced one du, and it wasn’t draft legal. I imagine a lot of the same principles apply, but obviously in different ways. You’re just going to have to be a strong runner, period. That’s always a part of draft legal multisport since most races are going to come down to the run unless someone can just completely demolish the field on the bike.

There’s probably no way around your power generation other than to work on the TT bike. That said, most riders don’t see that big of a dip between road and TT bike… have you had a good TT fit where the person was focused on your ability to put out power? A lot of fitters (wrongly, IMO) prioritize your aero position, but you’re talking about a 20%+ power reduction. You’d be better off slightly less aero and able to put out closer to 290-300W on the TT bike. I think the TR guys have talked about a 10% power difference between road and TT as somewhat “normal”. Yours seems way more than that!

The last bit would be to know the field if you can. If you know there’s one uber-biker out there who is close to you in terms of run pace, sit on that guy’s shoulder on the first run and make sure you get with (or ahead of) him coming out of transition. I’d say if I were racing a draft-legal duathlon here, I know the one guy I would sit on during the first run, and then I’d work with him or sit in his draft on the bike (he’s a beast), and then beat him on the second run. We raced each other in the one duathlon I’ve done - it wasn’t draft legal, unfortunately… I put 15 seconds into him in a 1.5mi run, and he still beat me by enough on the bike that I couldn’t catch him on the subsequent 5K run. If it was a draft-legal event, it would’ve been a different story!

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I had a TT fit booked…then lockdown happened! Will get one rebooked once life settles down! V good advice - many thanks

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