For a full copy of the USAT Competitive Rules Click Here

Most triathletes come to races with only a rudimentary understanding of the rules of the sport. Indeed, few have ever read through the USA Triathlon Competitive Rules in entirety. For reference, these may be found at To minimize misunderstandings on race day, I hope you will take the time to read the following summary of Position Violations (known as the drafting rules). I have reduced the Position Rules to the following concepts:

  • Ride on the right side of your lane unless attempting to pass another cyclist.
  • Keep three bike lengths (about 23 feet) between you and the cyclist in front of you.
  • Pass on the left of the cyclist in front, never on the right.
  • If passing another cyclist you must complete your pass within 15 seconds.
  • If passed, you must drop completely out of the draft zone (23 feet), to the rear, before attempting to re-pass.

Remember you are racing in a USA Triathlon sanctioned event and there are trained referees on the course to ensure fairness in the competition. There will be NO WARNINGS if you commit a foul during competition. Triathlon is an individual event and you must take personal responsibility to understand the rules and avoid penalties. At the end of the race all citations by the marshals are reviewed by the Head Referee who then decides if a penalty should be assessed. The Head Referee’s ruling is final in the case of Position Violations and there are no protests or appeals of position penalties. Marshals commonly cite the following violations: Illegal Position or Blocking – riding on the left side of the lane without passing.

Illegal Pass – passing on the right Overtaken – failing to drop back three bike lengths after being passed and before re-passing. Drafting – following a leading cyclist closer than three bike lengths (23 feet) and failing to pass or exit the draft zone within 15 seconds.

Though Position Violations carry a time penalty for each occurrence, if you are cited for three violations, you will be disqualified.

Always have your chinstrap securely fastened when on your bike! The helmet and chinstrap rule apply before, during, and after the event. The chinstrap rule is the easiest to follow, but some folks always seem to forget – that’s a DQ! Remember to treat other athletes, volunteers, and officials with courtesy and consideration. Failure to do so is called Unsportsman like Conduct and you will be disqualified.

All that being said, I hope you have a great race, lots of fun, and achieve all your goals.