It won't be what you think! What do you think is the #1 most common rule that is violated? Nope. Not drafting!
2009 MOST COMMONLY VIOLATED RULES & PENALTIES
1. Helmets: MOST PREVENTABLE...Helmets - really. In 2009, I saw two "homemade" helmets fashioned out of a German skateboard helmet and some modeling plastic used by engineers with stolen CPSC stickers. This is an EXTREMELY serious violation which can effect your bike shop with a $10,000 fine IF you insist that they "sold you" an illegal helmet. We have seen some knock off big brand helmets out of shops in Milwaukee and more urban parts of Virginia.
Only helmets approved by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) may be used in USAT sanctioned events. Helmets must be worn at all times while on your bike. This means before, during, and after the event.
2. Chin Straps: Another PREVENTABLE penalty. This year I saw a guy LEADING A RACE unbuckle his chin strap "for comfort". Once done, it cannot be undone; so to speak. DQ.
Chin straps must be buckled at all times when on a bicycle. DO NOT unbuckle your chin strap unless you are off your bicycle.
Penalty: Disqualification on the course; Variable time penalty in transition area only.
3. Outside Assistance: We are seeing this MORE and MORE. At one race an athlete's family had a buffet set up out of their SUV (I kid you not) the athlete stopped, ate, and moved on. They did it again on the run. Hard way to get 12 minutes of time added to your half Ironman. The athlete was STILL in the top 20 in his age group WITH 12 additional (senseless) minutes.
No assistance other than that offered by race and medical officials may be used. Triathlons and duathlons are individual tests of fitness.
Penalty: Variable time penalty
4. Transition Area: Another silly way to lose a podium slot. This year at one race a female racer "racked" her bike on the transition area fence. She was penalized appropriately. She won the race by 1:30, but the 2 minute penalty for the transition area knocked her off the podium and into 4th place.
At another race, a male racer came into transition, threw his bike on the rack. The rack collapsed. His bike fell into the center aisle of transition blocking the exit of approximately 900 other racers and he left to start his run. 2 minute penalty.
The rule: All equipment must be placed in the properly designated and individually assigned bike corral. The wheel of the bicycle must be down on the side of the assigned space. All participants must return their bicycles to an upright position in their designated bicycle corral. No person shall interfere with another participant’s equipment or impede the progress of another participant. All bar ends must be solidly plugged. No participant shall bring ANY glass containers into the transition area.
Penalty: Variable time penalty
5. Drafting: Ah, finally! Drafting, position, blocking and overtaken fouls are easy to avoid if you understand the rule. Several racers in Wisconsin and Kona benefited and lost based on their knowledge of these rules. For WTC races, the time is 20 seconds - regardless of what it says on Slowtwitch.com/Forumn. Drafting is actually really easy to call on the back of a motorcycle.
Drafting: Keep at least three bike lengths of clear space between you and the cyclist in front. If you move into the zone, you must pass within 15 seconds.
Position: EVEN if you are going up a hill. Ironman Wisconsin racers take note! ESPECIALLY, if you are getting lapped by the pro men or pro women. This is a safety issue.
Position: Keep to the right hand side of the lane of travel unless passing.
Blocking: This was my #1 penalty in 2009. I wrote this penalty at a 10:1 ratio versus drafting. (Probably because I was marshaling more "elite age group" races where guys especially feel they own the road.)
Blocking: Riding on the left side of the lane without passing anyone and interfering with other cyclists attempting to pass.
Overtaken: YOU MUST exit from the REAR of the draft zone once you are passed. Men, if getting "chicked" you need to fall back and THEN pass her again... until her superior fitness passes you back. Female pros, if an age group man catches you and passes you, YOU MUST drop back out of the zone before passing him.
Overtaken--once passed, you must immediately exit the draft zone from the rear, before attempting to pass again.
Penalty: Variable time penalty
6. Course: This goes for swim course buoys, bike cones, and run cones. YOU MUST stay on the correct side of the course at all times. Reduce your speed if necessary to stay on course. We have been stationing boats with marshals on turn buoys and at buoys on the swim. On the bike, the cement truck going to make a Saturday delivery doesn't care that you are racing "age group elite" and physics of force x mass is on his side. Bam, splat - life over. How do I know when to call that? We call it the "Oh, SHIT!" rule. If I see you going head to head with a vehicle and I think or yell out "Oh, SHIT!" Penalty. At Elkhart Lake Triathlon (Wisconsin), I had an age group athlete go head to head with a cement truck. My Vietnam vet, 6'4" 265 lbs. leather wearing, Special Forces bad ass, Harley Davidson drivin' moto driver screamed like a little girl... penalty. (No worries Rick, nobody you know reads this blog brother. Your secret is safe with me, er, us.)
All competitors are required to follow the prescribed course and to stay within all coned lanes. Cutting the course is an obvious violation and going outside the course is a safety issue. Cyclists shall not cross a solid yellow center line for ANY reason. Cyclists must obey all applicable traffic laws at all times.
Penalty: Referee's discretion
7. Unsportsmanlike-Like Conduct: Every year we get at least two or three people who expect the world and then the world is not enough. Many race directors are squemish to kick these asses out of a race, but I don't tolerate this penalty. In the "heat of battle" if I penalize you and you say, "Oh, that's bullshit!" I usually don't say or do anything. Say one word directly to me, my driver, or any other person on course during the race... penalty.
Foul, harsh, argumentative or abusive language or other unsportsmanlike conduct directed at race officials, USA Triathlon officials, volunteers, spectators or fellow athletes is forbidden.
8. Headphones: Lately, this is a popular one. From iPods on the run to radios at an Ironman informing racers of where they are relative to others in their age group. At Ironman, we confiscate them and hold the device for you to pick up after the race and 1:1 speaking engagement with the head referee.
Headphones, headsets, walkmans, ipods, mp3 players, or personal audio devices, etc. are not to be carried or worn at any time during the race.
Penalty: Variable time penalty (Ironman may lead to a DQ)
9. Race numbers: This has gone down in the Mid-East and Mid-West region. A very serious violation which can lead to a suspensions. Don't play with this. There are insurance policy issues that affect everyone in triathlon. Again, don't play here no matter how much money you lost on an entry fee.
All athletes are required to wear race numbers at all times during the run. Numbers must face the front and be clearly visible at all times. Numbers may not be cut or folded or altered in any way. DO NOT transfer your number to any other athlete or take a number from an athlete that is not competing.
Penalty: Variable time penalty for missing or altered number, Disqualification and one year suspension from membership in USAT for transferring a number without race director permission.
10. Wetsuits: Why someone would want to wear a wetsuit over 78 degrees is beyond me. You'll cook in your own juices!
Each age group participant shall be permitted to wear a wetsuit without penalty in any event sanctioned by USA Triathlon up to and including a water temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit. When the water temperature is greater than 78 degrees but less than 84 degrees Fahrenheit, age group participants may wear a wetsuit at their own discretion, provided, however that participants who wears a wetsuit within such temperature range shall not be eligible for prizes or awards. Above 84 degrees, wetsuits are prohibited.
11. Abandonment: Sometimes this is accidental. Many times on purpose. Like when a gal threw 6 PowerGel wrappers into a corn field in Madison, WI. Another time a guy threw an empty Gatorade bottle into a guys home entrance (no garbage cans out) in Kona, HI. Leave nothing but footprints folks.
All personal equipment and belongings taken out onto the course must stay on the athlete the entire time. No garbage, clothing, etc. shall be thrown on the course.
Penalty: Variable time penalty
Variable Time Penalties
Distance Category and Penalty (USAT)
Sprint / Intermediate (aka: Olympic distance) / Long / Ultra
2:00 minute / 2:00 minutes / 4:00 minutes / 6:00 minutes
4:00 minutes / 4:00 minutes / 8:00 minutes / 12:00 minutes
Disqualification / Disqualification / Disqualification / Disqualification
At WTC (Ironman races)
Long (70.3) & Ultra (Ironman) - red card only (drafting); a yellow card is all other violations and is a stop and sign penalty at the first available penalty tent.
At present, there is no online listing of WTC rules unless the race itself lists them. Races usually give you the low down in the race packet with a handout and a pre-race meeting.
At a WTC race, a yellow card can be given for a multitude of violations. You go to the next penalty tent and sign in. A red card is drafting and earns a time penalty to be served on course. WTC is an international race series, so their rules have USAT and ITU rules mixed in. It is a good system for that series.
Many races have "local rules". Think of them as "ground rules" of baseball, specific to courses with the USAT and WTC rules (red card/yellow card). There may be "no passing" zones, slow speed zones, etc depending on the hazards of the course.
For a complete list of rules, please refer to the most up to date USA Triathlon Competitive Rules at: http://triathlon.teamusa.org/content/index/1684