In the past two duathlons I've raced in, I've finished 2nd. Last week, I was beaten by a far superior competitor, Cameron; in June, at the Keuka Lake Duathlon, by Jim. For this weekend's Tri in the Buff, both were to be present. I had no inclination that I'd get close to Cameron, but felt I had a fair chance to beat Jim, so once again, the race would be for second place.
My race strategy was simple. Keep up with Jim during the first run, gain as much time as I could during the bike, and hopefully, having banked a bunch of time in the bike, have enough of a gap to hold on for 2nd.
My tactics worked perfectly. I finished the first run about 4 secs behind Jim an caught him immediately at the mount line. I buried myself deep in the bike and entered transition with a 2+minute gap. I was able to hang on in the final run (only lost about 30 seconds) and finished in 2nd place about 1:40 ahead of Jim. Success right?!? Well the saga continues.....
Satisfied with my performance, I headed away from the finish towards transition to pack up my things. On the way I passed by the results and wanted to just take a glance at some of the splits. To my horror, I noticed that I wasn't in 2nd, but 3rd! Upon closer inspection, it appeared that I was assessed a penalty. What?!?
Well, immediately I was on the war path. I headed over to the announcers table and the race official was called over. She explained to me that she had penalized me for rule 5.10f.
5.10f " Position. Except for reasons of safety and when no advantage is gained, all cyclists shall keep to the right of the prescribed course unless passing."
I asked when and how this penalty was determined as she explained to me that she had clocked me for 20 seconds in the passing area. She said that anything over 15 seconds was a violation of this rule. I asked the official where this time was stated and she said that a specific time wasn't stated in the rule book, it was just "something they were told during official training". I asked her that if I was in that position for less than 15 seconds if I would have gotten a penalty and she said no.
My second issue was the road conditions. The bike course was two loops, with a large section on route 5. Route 5 is two lanes and the shoulder was very pothole-ridden. In fact, several areas were marked with orange spray paint as a warning. In the first loop, I spent a good deal of time hitting and swerving around these potholes, so on the second loop, I decided to stay further left, to avoid throwing myself over the handlebars. It was on this second loop that I was assessed the penalty. I explained this to the official and she stated that she didn't think the area that I got the penalty in was unsafe. Also, on the second loop, I was passing riders a very frequent intervals as I was lapping slower riders.
The official called a couple of regional officials for a backup to her ruling and after arguing with her for awhile, I was told that I'd have to file a petition with the USTA, if I wanted the infraction changed.
I guess I have a few big issues with this penalty. First of all, I was not riding unsafe, but rather I made a decision to ride out a bit further during this stretch to protect myself from the rough road. I was not impeding any car traffic or putting myself or other riders in danger. Secondly, I gained no advantage by riding like this. Additionally, the official was basing her assessment of the penalty on a time lapse of 20 seconds. However, nothing in the rulebook for this section states a specific time that is acceptable/unacceptable. This makes the rule very subjective and open to interpretation.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of this is the fact that this race is part of a three race series. I would have been tied for the overall duathlon lead going into the final race (Summer Sizzler) with Jim, but now I am 2 points behind. It is too bad that a race and a series will probably be determined, not by racing skills but by a questionable (in my opinion) ruling. I do plan on filing that petition and lobbying my case with the race director as well.
Overall, the ScoreThis group that runs this series does a great job. Their events are always well organized and I'd highly encourage all to participate in the future.